Cicely Saunders was a distinguished nurse, doctor, and social worker. She is credited with developing the concept of “complete pain,” which accords equal weight to physical, emotional, social, and spiritual suffering. During her stint as a research fellow at St. Mary’s Paddington, she advocated for the practice of regularly administering painkillers to patients who were in persistent agony. She emphasized that the continual demand for certain medications, such as morphine, by patients leads to their addiction to such medications. According to her, only regular administration of these medications can fix this problem by allowing patients to take lesser amounts. This theory of Cicely is regarded as a crucial component of hospice treatment. She will be remembered as the founder of the hospice for terminally sick patients at St. Christopher’s. Through the foundation of St. Christopher’s hospice, she demonstrated that pain can be managed through compassionate care and love during a time when euthanasia was thought to be the only option for patients with cancer and other painful ailments. This organization is the first in medical history to mix instruction with clinical research. She also authored and co-edited works such as “Care of the Dying” and “The Management of Terminal Disease.”
Youth and Early Life
Cicely Saunders was the oldest child of real estate agent Gordon Saunders and his wife Chrissie. She was a member of a rich London family. She obtained her early schooling while attending a day school.
She entered Southlands, a boarding school near Brighton, at the age of eleven. She attended Roedean, a famous boarding school near Brighton, from 1932 until 1937.
She intended to enroll at Oxford University after graduating from Roedean. Unfortunately, she was unable to pass the entrance exam. Later, she attended Oxford’s St. Anne’s College.
In 1938, after enrolling at St. Anne’s, she opted to study politics, philosophy, and economics. Later, she chose to enroll at the Nightingale Training School to become a Red Cross nurse. Therefore, in 1940 she departed St. Anne’s.
She completed her probationary rotations at different London psychiatric hospitals. After that, she worked at Park Prewett hospital’s medical, surgical, pediatric, and gynecological wards.
Due to a back injury, she returned to St. Anne’s College in 1944 and graduated with a BA in 1945. Next, she underwent training as a medical social worker at the Royal Cancer Hospital.
Cicely Saunders’s Career
In September 1947, she began her career as a medical social worker by serving as an assistant almoner at St. Thomas’s Hospital’s Northcote Trust, a specialty cancer treatment facility.
She worked part-time at St. Luke’s Home for the Dying Poor in Bayswater in the late 1940s.
She enrolled at St Thomas’ Hospital Medical School in 1951 to become a physician. In 1957, she finished with an MBBS degree. After that, she became a research fellow in the pharmacology department at St. Mary’s Paddington.
At St. Mary’s Paddington, she also provided patient care. During this time, she took the initiative to promote the routine delivery of pain-relieving medications to patients.
In 1958, she worked at the Hackney, East London, Roman Catholic St. Joseph’s hospice. She served there for seven years and conducted research on pain management.
In 1959, she continued to write articles detailing her ideas for the current approach to hospice. Through one of her publications entitled “The Need,” she emphasized the topic of patients’ loneliness and isolation. She emphasized the importance of love and caring as vital components of treatment for such patients.
Her second paper, titled “The Scheme,” details her proposal for a 100-bed hospice for cancer patients and those with other terminal conditions. She also suggested a chapel, theologians on staff, and prayer as components of efficient medical care.
While working at St. Joseph’s Hospital, she began fundraising for St. Christopher’s Hospice, her dream project to build a 100-bed hospice for cancer patients.
St. Christopher’s began operating in 1967. Since this year, she worked as its medical director. From 1985 through 2000, she served as the organization’s chairman. She became president of this organization in 2000.
Awards & Achievements
The Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize was awarded to Cicely and St. Christopher’s for their innovative approach to the hospice movement. This prize recognizes the significance of science and humanity in the treatment of patients.
Personal History and Legacy
She met Polish cancer patient David Tasma while serving at St. Thomas’s Hospital’s Northcote Trust. She fell in love with Tasma, whom she cared for till he passed away.
The 500 pounds left by Tasma served as the impetus for the creation of her dream project, St. Christopher’s Hospice. Later, she started a romantic relationship with her patient Antoni Michniewicz. Antoni passed away in 1960.
She married the Polish painter Professor Marian Bohusz-Szyszko in 1980. In 1995, Marian passed away in the hospice of St. Christopher.
Cicely died of cancer at St. Christopher’s Hospice at the age of 87.
Estimated Net Worth
Cicely Saunders is one of the wealthiest and most well-known physicians. According to our investigation, Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider, Cicely Saunders has an estimated net worth of $1.5 million.
This notable social worker confessed in one of her interviews that, being an introvert, she found it incredibly difficult to make friends while attending Roedean boarding school. Moreover, her condition was compounded by her parents’ miserable marriage.