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Cicely Saunders and the hospice movement

One woman by the name of Cicely Saunders made a change that has altered the way millions of people have experienced dying. She has affected the experience of our family, thousands of miles away from where she lived. The change began with a love story.

Cicely Saunders nursed wounded soldiers during World War II. A few years later, she nursed and fell in love with David Tasma, a young Polish man who was dying in great pain. She tried desperately to relieve his suffering. The young man told her that he had another need equally important - he wanted to make peace with the God of his fathers.

The hospital where he lay dying was not the place to do this. Hospitals were focused on saving the living. David and Cicely talked about creating a place that focused on helping the dying.

When David died, he left Cicely £500 in his will so she could study to become a physician and learn how to help the dying. Cicely became a doctor, and single-handedly launched a campaign to build the world's first modern hospice, St Christopher's, London.

Christian monasteries built the first hospices centuries ago.

Despite encountering lack of understanding and opposition, Cicely succeeded. She charted new approaches for caring for the dying and for their families. As a result of her work, St Christopher's became a model for the modern hospice movement worldwide. It pioneered palliative medicine, which provides real pain relief and comfort, and established hospice's philosophy of treating every dying person and their family with dignity and love..

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Dame Cicely Saunders / Image: St Christopher's Hospice

That was just over forty years ago. The vision and efforts of one woman united with the efforts of the people of Britain created modern hospice today and transformed the experience of dying.

Inspiring. Each of us is given the chance to make a difference.

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