DAME CICELY SAUNDERS OM, DBE, FRCP, FRCN, FRCS.
Dame Cicely Saunders was the visionary founder of the modern hospice movement, who set the highest standards in care for the dying. She earned gratitude, admiration and international renown for helping to alleviate the suffering of people with incurable cancer.
She was a remarkable innovator in the treatment of pain, demonstrating, what is now widely adopted, that intermittent reactive sedation of surging pain was far less effective than achieving a steady state in which the dying patient could still maintain consciousness and even life with some quality.
She always remained focused on the specific and unique needs of each individual patient and family. Dr Saunders taught us about total patient care, family care, bereavement care and the need for true interdisciplinary teamwork, thus addressing all the possible components of ‘total pain’ whether physical, psychological, social or spiritual. In brief she revolutionised the medical care of the dying.
St. Christopher’s Hospice
Motivated by her own faith in Christ, Dame Cicely built a Movement that cares for people of all faiths and none. In 1967 she established St Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham, where, for the first time and on her initiative, she attempted to provide patient-centred palliative care for the terminally ill, combining emotional, spiritual and social support with expert medical and nursing care. Its practices have since been widely copied and developed all around the world.
The Royal College of Physicians
The change she accomplished in medical attitudes was most notably recognised when the Royal College of Physicians established palliative medicine as a distinct medical specialism.
Dr Saunders was a charismatic ‘grande dame’ with strong values and a great talent for leadership. She held fellowships in the Royal College of Physicians (1974), the Royal College of Nursing (1981) and the Royal College of Surgeons (1986). She was awarded the esteemed Templeton, Onassis and Wallenberg prizes, a score of honorary degrees and medals, was advanced from OBE (1967) to DBE in 1980 and appointed to the Order of Merit in 1989. In 2001 she was awarded the million-dollar Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize.
This great woman of our time died at St Christopher’s from breast cancer on July 14th 2005, aged 87
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