You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life
Philanthropist Dame Cicely Saunders was the founder of the modern hospice care and pioneered a new approach to caring for people who are dying.
Educated at famous private school Roedean and after studying at Oxford, Cicely was inspired to establish a caring environment for people at the end of their lives.
Here, she envisaged, the dying process would not regarded as the point at which medicine no longer worked, but a final life stage which people would be cared for and nurtured through.
Her friendship with a dying Polish refugee, who left her £500 in his will, helped her forment her idea. It would take 20 years to realise her dream, during which time she qualified as a doctor. In the meantime, she learned much about the process of death, adopting the view that “as the body becomes weaker, so the spirit becomes stronger.”
Cicely’s first hospice was St Christopher's, which was founded in 1967 in the London suburb of Sydenham. It would be the first of many and a beacon for palliative care.
She completely transformed attitudes to the dead and dying, revitalising the entire practice for caring for people at the end of their lives. She was recognised for her work and made a Dame in 1979.
Today, her legacy is clear. Hospices play a vital role in providing end of life care and offering support for the relatives or friends of the dying. A total of 46,000 people in the UK receive bereavement support from hospices each year.