Dame Cicely Saunders
Born on 22nd of June 1918
Died in Sydenham, London
Died on 14th of July 2005
Dame Cicely Saunders was the founder of the modern hospice movement, taking the idea from the basic care offered by certain religious houses and developing it by building in greater medical assistance, particularly pain relief, and increased social activity for the patients.
Born in Barnet on June 22 1918, Cicely Saunders won a place at St Anne’s Oxford, though she interrupted her degree to train as a nurse during WWII. Injury forced her to change direction again, returning to St Anne’s where she finished her PPE BA in 1945. Work as a medical social worker and an epiphany while holidaying with Christian friends saw her focus on care for the dying, and she decided to become a doctor, qualifying in 1957.
After many years considering the idea she finally set about establishing a modern, purpose-built hospice, St Christopher’s in Sydenham, which opened its doors in 1967. Her view was that dying was not to be regarded as a medical failure, but merely a natural part of life’s course, the experience of which can be improved with palliative care – the end being dying with dignity. She served as medical director of St Christopher’s until 1985 when she became Chairman, and then in 2000 she took on the role of President.
She wrote widely on the hospice concept, including Hospice: The Living Idea in 1981. Her work was recognized with many awards including the Templeton Prize in 1981 and the BMA Gold Medal in 1987. She was made a DBE in 1979, and appointed to the Order of Merit in 1989.
Dame Cicely married in 1980 when she was 61 and her husband, Polish painter Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, was 79. He died at St Christopher’s in 1995, as she herself did on July 14 2005.
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