Hospice care and Black History in the United States share a compelling story of compassion and social justice. Hospice is an approach to healthcare that focuses on giving the best quality of life possible to those struggling with terminal illnesses. Pain management, symptom management, emotional support and spiritual support are provided for the individual and their loved ones.
Hospice care, as we know it today, was developed in the 1960s by Dame Cicely Saunders, a British physician. Dr. Saunders was a revolutionary in the areas of hospice and palliative care. In 1976 she founded St. Christopher’s Hospice in London which provided a new model of care for patients with terminal illnesses. The focus became more about meeting the unique needs of dying patients and their families while providing compassionate care that respected the patients’ values and beliefs. The new model grew rapidly and is now available in many countries around the world.
In the United States, the hospice movement began to develop in the 1960s and 1970s. The first hospice programs were established in Connecticut and other states. At the same time, the civil rights movement was gaining momentum with Black leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. calling for an end to segregation and discrimination. The new model of hospice care aimed to establish relationships of trust with patients and families. The goal was to provide culturally sensitive care that respected patients’ values and beliefs. This approach helped to overcome the barriers that had previously prevented many African American patients from seeking medical care.
African Americans, through direct contributions and significant events, contributed to the hospice movement. These contributions promoted compassionate and person-centered end-of-life care for people from diverse backgrounds.