Dame Cicely Saunders trained as a nurse, a medical social worker and finally as a physician. From 1948 she was involved with the care of patients with terminal illness, lectured widely on the subject, wrote many articles and contributed to a great number of books. She founded St. Christopher's Hospice in 1967 as the first research and teaching hospice linked with clinical care, pioneering the field of palliative medicine.
Dame Cicely began fundraising for St Christopher's Hospice in 1963. By 1967 she had raised £500,000 towards building costs and established a contract with the Regional Board for 60% of running costs. As the work expanded, this proportion of revenue reduced to only 30%, requiring further fundraising in order to fill an increasing gap running to several million pounds. By 1970, she had obtained contracts with the teaching hospitals local to St Christopher's Hospice and this system of funding remained for several years, until funding arrangements were taken over by local Health Authorities. In 1976 Dame Cicely obtained a grant from the Department of Health & Social Security to cover the running costs of the newly built Education Centre. A grant for Education continues to this day. St Christopher's annual budget now runs at around £10 million per annum.
During her 34 years as Medical Director, Chairman and Founder/President of St Christopher's Hospice, Dame Cicely was also a trustee of a number of grant giving trusts, including: Member of the Medical Research Council 1976 - 1979; Deputy Chairman, Attendance Allowance Board 1971 - 1985; a Founder, and Hon. President, National Council for Hospice & Specialist Palliative Care Services 1992 - date; Trustee, Elizabeth Clark Trust 1986 - 1996; Trustee, Goldsmiths' Charitable Trust 1997 - 1998. In 2002 she became the founder trustee of Cicely Saunders International and worked actively for the creation of a centre of excellence housing research, education, information provision and clinical care. The Institute established in her name will enable research to quickly feed into care and practice, enabling people to live better, with dignity and the least possible suffering.
Dame Cicely was also involved with the creation of hospice teams around the world. She is universally recognised as the founder of the modern hospice movement and received many honours and awards for her work. She held over twenty honorary degrees from the UK and overseas. Awards include the British Medical Association Gold Medal for services to medicine, the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, the Onassis Prize for Services to Humanity, the Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms for Worship Medal. Dame Cicely was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1980 and was awarded the Order of Merit by Her Majesty the Queen in 1989.
Dame Cicely died on 14 July 2005 at St Christopher's Hospice.
A bibliography of publications by Dame Cicely Saunders can be viewed on the Cicely Saunders International website
copyright photograph by Derek Bayes