A British hospice that began the modern movement of helping the terminally ill to die with dignity has been named the winner of this year's $1 million Hilton Foundation Humanitarian award.
The winner of the Hilton prize is St. Christopher's Hospice in London, which was founded in 1967 by Cicely Saunders, a pioneer in helping terminally ill patients and their families.
Steve Hilton, president of the foundation created by his hotel-building grandfather Conrad, says he hopes the prize will raise awareness of hospice care around the world. "This, I think, is especially urgent," Mr. Conrad said, "when you look at diseases like cancer and AIDS and particularly in the developing countries where there really is no short-term, immediate cures for these diseases and all the more reason to look at hospice care as a compassionate response."
Barbara Monroe, the chief executive of St. Christopher's, explains the things that hospice care can provide to patients and families. "People need support to do the things that are important to them," Ms. Monroe points out. "To say, 'I love you.' To say, 'I am sorry.' Time to talk to their children about something so important that is happening in their family. The way that a society cares for the dying is a measure of its values and its integrity."
Cicely Saunders says her inspiration to care for the terminally ill came from a 40-year-old Polish Jew named David. She met him as he lay dying alone and without family in a London hospital during World War Two. Before he died, David gave her some money and a challenge to help people. "David was an agnostic Jew and that founded a worldwide hospice movement," Ms. Saunders said. "And that is an illustration that we are a community of the unlike. And this prize, the humanitarian award, underlines how science and humanity go together and that's what hospice is about."
Ms. Saunders will receive the award in a formal presentation next month(September 17) in New York, with an address scheduled by U.N. Secretary General, Kofi Annan.