The person must have shaped thought, innovation, leadership or values in the UK
Saunders pioneered a complete change in the treatment of people at the end of life, and the practice of medicine as a whole.
There were many hospices providing expert nursing care prior to the establishment of St Christopher’s, however the latter was revolutionary in uniting expert pain and symptom control, compassionate care, teaching and clinical research to treat the patient holistically. Previously, many patients died in hospitals rather than in their own homes, and hospital practice at the time was to give inadequate and infrequent injections of morphine that left many patients in uncontrolled pain.
Saunders pioneered an approach at St Christopher’s than considered the patient’s physical, spiritual and psychological wellbeing in their entirety, and suggested a systematic approach to controlling symptoms. Throughout her career, Saunders continuously evaluated new approaches to care and suggested improvements. This included carrying out studies demonstrating that morphine given orally in the right dosage, at the right interval, could provide constant pain relief without addiction. She also oversaw the development in 1969 of the first service to deliver care to patients in their own homes and worked to get palliative medicine recognised as a speciality by the Royal College of Physicians.