The Cicely Saunders Society

Promoting the appreciation and understanding of the life and work of Dame Cicely Saunders

Gallery credits: photos 1, 2 and 4: Derek Bayes, photo 5: Mary McCartney Donald

Dame Cicely Saunders, the acknowledged founder of the modern approach to hospice and palliative care, was a nurse, social worker and physician. She initially trained in the social sciences, and throughout her adult life was influenced by a deep commitment to the Christian faith. She died in 2005 and in 2018 a new biography[1] was published to mark the centenary of her birth. 

Global interest in the centenary and in the biography has confirmed the continuing value of understanding the life, work and legacy of Cicely Saunders.

To find out more

Twitter: @CicelySociety

Aim of The Cicely Saunders Society

To promote appreciation and understanding of the life and work of Dame Cicely Saunders.


  • To organise intellectual and sociable activities and events for members, including visits to sites and places of interest, symposia, seminars and lectures
  • To promote activities to further identify and safeguard archival material relating to the life and work of Cicely Saunders, including the digitisation of relevant papers, and the cataloguing of publications and writings, as well as photographic, film and sound recordings
  • To consider how learning from the life and work of Cicely Saunders could apply to contemporary issues and thinking related to hospice and palliative care
  • To carry out any other relevant activities in pursuit of the aim of the society.

Upcoming open meetings

Cicely Saunders on Desert Island Discs  – Tuesday 9 March 2021, at 5.30pm

Join us to discuss together Cicely’s famous BBC radio broadcast of January 1994 in which she selects eight pieces of music she would choose to have on a desert island, along with one book and one luxury. In conversation with presenter Sue Lawley, Cicely explains her varied choices and the stories behind them.

Facilitated by music therapist and hospice Chief Executive, Nigel Hartley, we will then share our thoughts on the music and what it reveals about Cicely’s life and work. In order to maximise on our time together in this open meeting, you will need to have listened to Dame Cicely speaking to Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs ahead of time. The recording can be found for free on various platforms including the BBC website, Apple Podcasts and Spotify

Book now (free)

The mystery of Ela Majer (‘David’) Tasma  – Tuesday 11 May 2021, at 5.30pm

‘David’ Tasma is foundational to Cicely’s dedication to the care of the dying and to the story of St Christopher’s. First encountered by Cicely in 1948, when she was working as a hospital almoner, the Polish emigre ‘David’ was to die only months later in the London Hospital, feeling his life had been a failure.

In the intense weeks before his death they spoke deeply about faith, love and new possibilities for care at the end of life, leaving Cicely with an intense feeling of loss, but also some memorable phrases that she frequently used thereafter as well as an abiding interest in Poland. Professor David Clark pieces together the story of how ‘David’ came to be in London and what we know about his life.

Book now (free)

Watch again

The story of Watch with Me – first shown on Tuesday 12 January 2021 at 5.30pm

Part of the Connect with CARE series

The little book Watch with Me was described by Dr Robert Twycross at Cicely’s memorial service, as her ‘autobiography’. Five short pieces written over as many decades take us through Cicely’s preoccupations with the care of the dying and the importance of belief in guiding her ideas and practice.

Professor David Clark will explain how the book came to be published in 2003 and then we will hear from some of those who have been responsible for translating Watch with Me into no less than seven languages (to include: Professors Carlos Centeno and Augusto Caraceni; Drs Isabel Neto, Irena Švab Kavčič, Franklin Santana Santos and Martina Holder; Rev Bente Bramming).

Register to watch again

Next steps

Dame Cicely Saunders

A group of people with personal, professional or organisational interest in Cicely’s life came together in June 2019 and agreed to work together to create a Cicely Saunders Society, which will be dedicated to fostering wider understanding and appreciation of all that she did. 

The group currently comprises:

  • Geoff Browell, Head of Archives and Research Collections, King’s College London
  • Rosemary Burch, Breast Care Clinical Nurse Specialist and Group Psychotherapist (retired), also God-daughter of Dr Saunders
  • Professor David Clark, University of Glasgow (Chair)
  • Andrew Goodhead, Senior Manager and Hospice Archivist, St Christopher’s
  • Melanie Hodson, Information Specialist, Hospice UK
  • Chris Olver, Archivist, Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability 
  • Heather Richardson, Joint CEO St Christopher’s Hospice
  • Joe Wood, PhD researcher, University of Glasgow
  • Professor Carlos Centeno, ATLANTES Research Programme, University of Navarra, Spain
  • Dr Lisbeth Thoresen, Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, University of Oslo, Norway
  • Dr Augusto Caraceni, Department of Palliative Care, Pain Therapy and Rehabilitation, Instituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy
  • Professor Philip Larkin, Lausanne University Hospital and l’Institut Universitaire de Formation et de Recherche en Soins (IUFRS), Switzerland
  • Sian Best, Cicely Saunders International, Cicely Saunders Institute, London UK

This group will spend the next year working up a programme of events, connecting with people who are interested to be part of the society, finding out more about what others are doing to appreciate and celebrate Cicely’s life and work and considering the long term shape and funding for the Society.

Anyone who shares the aim of the society is welcome to get involved.

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To help

If you are involved in examining or celebrating the life of Dame Cicely Saunders, then we would love to know more. Please get in touch by emailing

[1] Clark, D (2018) Cicely Saunders:  A life and legacy. New York: Oxford University Press, pp 336.

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