To Comfort Always: A History of Palliative Medicine Since the Nineteenth Century

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Oxford University Press, 2016 - Medical - 237 pages
Palliative medicine was first recognised as a specialist field in 1987. One hundred years earlier, London based doctor William Munk published a treatise on 'easeful death' that mapped out the principles of practical, spiritual, and medical support at the end of life. In the intervening years a major process of development took place which led to innovative services, new approaches to the study and relief of pain and other symptoms, a growing interest in 'holistic' care, and a desire to gain more recognition for care at the end of life.

This book traces the history of palliative medicine, from its nineteenth-century origins, to its modern practice around the world. It takes in the changing meaning of 'euthanasia', assesses the role of religious and philanthropic organisations in the creation of homes for the dying, and explores how twentieth-century doctors created a special focus on end of life care. To Comfort Always traces the rise of clinical studies, academic programmes and international collaborations to promote palliative care. It examines the continuing need to support development with evidence, and assesses the dilemmas of unequal access to services and pain relieving drugs, as well as the periodic accusations of creeping medicalization within the field.

This is the first history of its kind, and the breadth of information it encompasses makes it an essential resource for those interested in the long-term achievements of palliative medicine as well as the challenges that remain.


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1 Nineteenthcentury doctors and care of the dying
3 Interest and disinterest in the midtwentieth century
 A kaleidoscope of effects
5 Defining the clinical realm
6 Specialty recognition and global development
 Historical record and challenges that remain

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About the author (2016)

David Clark, Professor of Medical Sociology, School of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Glasgow

Professor David Clark is a sociologist at the University of Glasgow. He founded the International Observatory on End of Life Care at Lancaster University in 2003 and has wide ranging interests in the history and global development of palliative care. He has a particular knowledge of the life and work of Dame Cicely Saunders and has edited her letters and selected publications. He has written a History of the Project on Death in America and currently holds a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award for a study entitled Global Interventions at the End of Life.

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