|Dame Cicely Mary Saunders|
Dame Cicely Saunders
22 June 1918|
Barnet, Hertfordshire, England
|Died||14 July 2005
|Known for||The hospice movement|
|Profession||nurse, social worker, physician, writer|
|Institutions||St. Christopher's Hospice|
Member of the Order of Merit
Dame Cicely Mary Saunders, OM, DBE, FRCS , FRCP, FRCN was a prominent Anglican, nurse, social worker, physician and writer, involved with many international universities. She helped the dying and terminally ill end their lives in the most comfortable ways possible.
She is best known for her role in the birth of the hospice movement, emphasizing the importance of palliative care in modern medicine. At the time hospices were sanctuaries provided by religious orders for the dying poor. They offered food, clothing, shelter as well as minimal medical care.
Saunders originally set out in 1938 to study politics, philosophy, and economics at St. Anne's College, Oxford University. In 1940, she left to become a student nurse at the Nightingale Training School of London's St. Thomas's Hospital (King's College London). Returning to St Anne's College after a back injury in 1944, she took a BA in 1945, qualifying as a medical social worker in 1947 and becoming a lady almoner at St Thomas's hospital.
In 1948 she fell in love with a patient, David Tasma, a Polish-Jewish refugee who, having escaped from the Warsaw ghetto, worked as a waiter; he was dying of cancer. He left her £500 (equivalent to £13,106 in 2013) to be "a window in your home". That act, which helped germinate the idea that became St Christopher's is remembered by a plain sheet of glass in the entrance to the hospice.
While training for social work, she holidayed with some Christians, and went through a conversion experience. In the late 1940s, Saunders began working part-time at St Luke's Home for the Dying Poor in Bayswater, and it was partly this which, in 1951, led her to begin study at St Thomas's Hospital Medical School to become a physician. She qualified MBBS in 1957.
She was married to Polish painter Marian Bohusz-Szyszko who died in St Christopher's hospice in 1995.
A year later, she began working at the Roman Catholic St Joseph's Hospice in Hackney, east London, where she was to stay for seven years, and researched pain control. It was while there that she met a second Pole, Antoni Michniewicz, a patient with whom she fell in love. His death, in 1960, coincided with the death of Saunders's father, and another friend, and put her into what she later called a state of "pathological grieving". But she had already decided to set up her own hospice, focused on cancer patients, and said that Michniewicz's death had shown her that "as the body becomes weaker, so the spirit becomes stronger".
Saunders claimed that after 11 years of thinking about the project, she had drawn up a comprehensive blueprint and sought finance after reading Psalm 37: "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass." She also succeeded in engaging the support of Albertine Winner, the deputy chief medical officer at the Ministry of Health at the time. Later, Dame Albertine Winner would become chairwoman of St. Christopher's. In 1965 Saunders was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
In 1967, St Christopher's Hospice, the world's first purpose-built hospice, was established. The hospice was founded on the principles of combining teaching and clinical research, expert pain and symptom relief with holistic care to meet the physical, social, psychological and spiritual needs of its patients and those of their family and friends. It was a place where patients could garden, write, talk - and get their hair done. There was always, Saunders would emphasize, so much more to be done, and she did it, as its medical director from 1967, and then, from 1985, as its chairman, a post she occupied until 2000, when she became president.
In 1979, Queen Elizabeth II honoured Cicely Saunders with the title Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). In 1981 Dame Cicely was awarded the Templeton Prize, the world's richest annual prize awarded to an individual. In 1989 Dame Cicely was appointed to the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II. In 2001 she received the world's largest humanitarian award - the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, worth £700,000 - on behalf of St Christopher's. On 25 April 2005, another () portrait of her was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery. Dame Cicely was one of the subjects of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's book: Courage: Eight Portraits. She was a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, a Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing and a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.
In 1963, three years after the death of Mr. Michniewicz, Cicely became familiar with the paintings of Professor Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, a Polish émigré with a degree in fine art. They met and became friends shortly thereafter. She became a patron of his art, and a substantial amount of his work is hung at St Christopher's Hospice. Marian had a long-estranged wife in Poland, whom he supported, and he was a devout Catholic. Marian’s wife died in 1975 and, in 1980 he married Cicely; she was 61 and he was 79. Marian died in 1995, spending his last days at St Christopher's Hospice.
Cicely Saunders International
In 2002 Dame Cicely Saunders co-founded a new charity - Cicely Saunders International. Dame Cicely was a founder trustee and its President. The charity's mission is to promote research to improve the care and treatment of all patients with progressive illness and to make high-quality palliative care available to everyone who needs it - be it in hospice, hospital or home. The charity has co-created the world's first purpose built Institute of Palliative Care - the Cicely Saunders Institute, and supported research to improve the management of symptoms such as breathlessness, action to meet more closely patient and family choice in palliative care, and better support for older people.
Dame Cicely Saunders was instrumental in the history of UK medical ethics. She was an advisor to Andrew Mephem whose report led the Rev. Edward Shotter to set up the London Medical Group, a forerunner of the Society for the Study of Medical Ethics later the Institute of Medical Ethics. She gave one of the first LMG lectures on the subject of pain developing the talk into 'The nature and Management of Terminal pain' by 1972. This was went on to be one of the most often repeated and requested lectures of the LMG and other such Medical Groups that sprung up around Great Britain where it was often given as their inaugural lecture. Her talk on the care of the dying patient was printed by the LMG in its series 'Documentation in Medical Ethics, a forerunner of the Journal of Medical Ethics.
Dame Cicely died of cancer at the age of 87 in 2005, at St Christopher's Hospice, the hospice she herself had founded.
Titles and honours
- Miss Cicely Saunders (22 June 1928 — 1957)
- Dr Cicely Saunders (1957 — 1 January 1965)
- Dr Cicely Saunders, OBE (1 January 1965 — 31 December 1979)
- Dame Cicely Saunders, DBE (31 December 1979 — 30 November 1989)
- Dame Cicely Saunders, OM, DBE (30 November 1989 — 14 July 2005)
- "UK Inflation calculator". Retrieved 25 April 2013.
- Reynolds, L.A., and E.M. Tansey, eds. Medical Ethics Education in Britain, 1963-1993. London: UK: Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL, 2007. Available from: http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/14885/ p.118, p.8 & 77
- Saunders, Cicely. “The Care of the Dying Patient and His Family.” Documentation in Medical Ethics, no. 5 (1975) Published by the London Medical Group.
- Clark, D. (2000) Total pain: the work of Cicely Saunders and the hospice movement. American Pain Society Bulletin, 10 (4). pp. 13-15. ISSN 1057-1590
- British Medical Journal obituary
- BBC obituary
- Guardian obituary
- Biography in Plarr's Lives of the Fellows Online
- A personal therapeutic journey, Cicely Saunders British Medical Journal 1996
- Cicely Saunders International
- BBC Woman's Hour interview and history, broadcast 17 August 2001
- St Christopher's Hospice
- Works by or about Cicely Saunders in libraries (WorldCat catalog)