Charting a Palliative Revolution: Q&A with Dr. Kathryn Mannix Speaks Ahead of CHPCA Conference

In anticipation of the upcoming CHPCA Conference in Ottawa this October, we decided to reach out to our lineup of incredible plenary speakers and ask them a few questions about the Conference, Ottawa, and palliative care in Canada!

The third and final article in the series features Dr. Kathryn Mannix – renowned palliative care activist, clinician, and author from the United Kingdom.

CHPCA: Have you ever been to Ottawa? Any favourite spots?
Kathryn Mannix: I spent two weeks in Ottawa in 1988 – I was a new trainee in palliative medicine, and I came to present some research about anti-emetics at ‘Emesis 88’ – yes, that is a real conference! I used the opportunity of coming to Canada to visit some fantastic palliative care services, including time with the Elizabeth Bruyere palliative care unit under the guidance of a very young Dr John Scott; a visit to the RVH in Montreal where I met both Dr. Balfor Mount and Prof Ron Melzak; a week in Hamilton with Dr Nadia Plach and the wonderful, much-missed Dr Liz Latimer; and a visit to Toronto where the Sunnybrook team tried to give me a job!

I loved Ottawa, and I spent hours in the National Gallery, bewitched by the paintings of Tom Thomson.

Do you have any advice for a first-time conference attendee?
K: Talk to everyone. Conferences are filled with people interested in similar ideas and often with wide-ranging opinions and experiences. Soak it all up. Mark up your programme early, make a list of where to be and when, and then enjoy yourself. Don’t feel ‘too junior’ to engage. We have all been trainees. The senior people all really want you to succeed.

CHPCA: This year’s theme is ‘A Palliative Revolution’ – what opportunities for change do you see in Canada’s healthcare system?
K: I probably don’t know enough (yet) about the current opportunities and challenges facing Canadian healthcare, but I’m starting my five-week tour of Canada on Sept 17th so I’ll be better informed by the time Conference arrives. Like all high-income countries, one of the questions we need to ask ourselves is how the personal, social and intimate process of dying got overtaken by medicine. How do we rescue it? How do we restore dying to its place in our human life-stories? I am a fan of Drs Sammy Winemaker and Hsien Seow’s ‘Waiting Room Revolution.’ I like the way their model empowers people to remain persons as well as patients, and regain control over the way healthcare practitioners communicate with them.

Can you give readers a bit of a teaser about what you’ll be talking about at the CHPCA Conference?
K: I’m looking forward to inviting CHPCA Conference attendees to reconsider what we’ve previously called ‘Difficult Conversations.’ I’d like us to approach the conversations we consider daunting from a different mindset, and consider whether viewing them as ‘Tender Conversations’ helps clinicians to listen better, be more aware of their patients’ concerns, and more fully engage with what matters most to the people we serve.

Are there any resources, projects or research that you’re involved with that you’d like folks to check out?
K: Since taking early retirement from palliative medicine to campaign for better public understanding of dying, and better conversations around our most fervent wishes, I’ve had the opportunity to write books, talk on the radio (even CBC), give TEDx talks and visit like-minded colleagues around the world. It’s all been so much busier (and more fun) than I could have guessed. My books are With The End In Mind (  and Listen ( My TEDx Newcastle talk ‘What Happens As We Die?’ is at (over 1 million views). My website should be updated and running by Conference at

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