The History of Hospice

The term hospice is derived for the word “hospitality.” Dating back to medieval times, it was know as a place where ill travelers could stay during their journey. It was until 1948 was the term “hospice” used in medicine. Dame Cicely Saunders created the first modern hospice in London, St. Christopher’s Hospice.

Here is a timeline of the history of hospice.

1965: Florence Wald, then Dean of the Yale School of Nursing, invites Saunders to become a visiting faculty member of the school for the spring term.

1967: Dame Cicely Saunders creates St. Christopher’s Hospice in the United Kingdom.

1968: Wald takes a sabbatical from Yale to work at St. Christopher’s and learn all she can about hospice.

1969: A book based on more than 500 interviews with dying patients is published, entitled, On Death and Dying.  Written by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, it identifies the five stages through which many terminally ill patients progress.  The book becomes an internationally known best seller.  Within it, Kubler-Ross makes a plea for home care as opposed to treatment in an institutional setting and argues that patients should have a choice and the ability to participate in the decisions that affect their destiny.

1972:  Kubler-Ross testifies at the first national hearings on  death with dignity, conducted by the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.

1974:  Florence Wald, along with two pediatricians and a chaplain, founded Connecticut Hospice in Branford, Connecticut. The first hospice legislation is introduced by Senators Frank Church and Frank E. Moss to provide federal funds for hospice programs.

1979: The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) initiates demonstration programs at 26 hospices across the country to assess the cost effectiveness of hospice care and to help determine what a hospice is and what it should provide

1982: Congress includes a provision to create a Medicare hospice benefit in the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982

1993: Hospice is included as a nationally guaranteed benefit under President Clinton’s health care reform proposal. Hospice is now an accepted part of the health care continuum.

2005: The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology release new guidelines about treating heart failure that includes recommendations that hospice care education be provided early in the course of an illness.

2014: Forty years after the creation of Connecticut Hospice, NHPCO and its affiliates celebrate 40 years of hospice care in the US.

Share this article