12.3.09

Day 163. The Dignified One.

Today, I would like to recognize Dame Cicely Saunders. This woman is the individual widely credited with the modern hospice movement and the integration of pallative care.

Hospice is the philosophy and practice of palliative care - which is treatment that focuses on reducing the severity of disease symptoms rather than striving to delay or halt the disease's progression or to provide a cure. ( according to Wikipedia) Today, this treatment is rather pervasive in the United States and is a common alternative available to those with terminal illness.

I know this topic of hospice/ palliative care can be quite controversial, and I am not writing today to convince anyone to change their beliefs or opinions but rather to honor a woman who had the strength of character to look at a terrible situation in a different way. If you take the time to read the link I've posted above, Dame Saunders came to build the concept of hospice out of grief for watching loved ones die of terminal illness and the belief that there needs to be dignity, and food for the spirit, even in death. 

I have been exposed to many people who have take advantage of the services of a hospice for a variety of reasons. Personally, I support this decision as each person's individual choice. I find peace in the fact that each person found rest for their soul and easement of their pain in their final days. I find comfort in the fact that many of these people knew their last vision to be that of their home or other known surroundings and that these people's loved ones will remember those they lost as being in a place of familiarity, and not just a clinical hospital room. 

For those who have committed their lives to medicine, I know that they are duty bound to do all that they can to save a person's life. For Dame Saunders to be able to wrestle with maintaining that commitment and amend it to consider quality of life and dignity of the individual - not just health of the body - is rather amazing and heartbreakingly profound. For anyone who has had their pain, emotional or physical, acknowledged and eased by what we now consider "the common option" of palliative care, I thank Dame Cicely Saunders.

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