Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 67(3) August 2017

Happy Birthday St Christopher’s

Dr Adrian Treloar

St Christopher logoSt Christopher’s Hospice was founded in July 1967. Dame Cicely Saunders, began her work with the terminally ill in 1948 and the founding of St Christopher’s was a true milestone in the development of the modern hospice movement.

Within 20 years there were over 100 modern hospices in the UK and there are now over 263 inpatient units alongside home care services, day care services and hospital support services.

St Christopher’s founder was inspired by one of her patients whom she cared for as he died. In 1960, Dame Cicely cared for Antoni Michiewicz as he died. Through him and with him, she saw that the care she gave and the support that she could give was massively wider than the standard medical model. On 20th July 1960 she wrote ”Today, I saw that he was very ill indeed and I went to say that he need not try to swallow his pills but I did want him to go on with the injections. And I felt his pulse and held his hand. At which he held mine and said ‘Thank-you, doctor, and not just for your pills and medicines, but for your heart’.

Thank you doctor, and not just for your pills and medicines, but for your heart

Antonio Michiewicz 1960

St Christopher’s pioneering example has shone through medicine over the last 50 years and helped generations of doctors to understand that the care we give has far greater meaning and resonance than its curative aspect. Even more importantly, Dame Cicely and St Christopher’s has led a hospice movement which has been resolutely opposed to euthanasia. Indeed, demonstrating that good care of the dying is both feasible and reliably deliverable has been a profound and strong argument against euthanasia. To cherish life while accepting death is totally different from euthanasia in all its forms. Just as St Christopher carried the Christ Child across the waters, so too must we carry the sick and dying in their final illnesses.

Therefore, we hope, pray and urge that St Christopher’s will flourish for many more years, and that the modern hospice movement will strongly maintain the opposition to euthanasia which was such a central part of Dame Cicely’s belief and practice.

Ad multos annos