Friday, November 14, 2008

Florence Wald

Florence Wald "died on Saturday at her home in Branford, Conn. She was 91." I hope she died peacefully, seeing as she was the founder of the hospice movement in this country.

I hope she died peacefully in any event, and the likelihood that she did is greater because of her own work. She started a hospice in Connecticut in 1974, the first one in the U.S. and a program and process that is now common: "There are now more than 3,000 hospice programs in the United States, serving about 900,000 patients a year."

I really loved this section from the obituary:
She was troubled by a medical ethic that insisted on procedure after procedure.

“In those days, terminally ill patients went through hell, and the family was never involved,” she said. “No one accepted that life cannot go on ad infinitum.”

And now we do, or at least are more likely to accept the finitude of our lives. Not only did she make dying easier, I think she made life better. And not only did she change how we are able to die, she changed the way the medical establishment approached death as well. I think that's an incredible accomplishment.

Expect something else to become commonplace: hospice in prisons.
In recent years, Mrs. Wald had concentrated on extending the hospice care model to dying prison inmates.

“People on the outside don’t understand this world at all,” Mrs. Wald told The New York Times in 1998. “Most people in prison have had a rough time in life and haven’t had any kind of education in how to take care of their health.”

And, she added, “There is the shame factor, the feeling that dying in prison is the ultimate failure.”

Part of Mrs. Wald’s solution was to train inmate volunteers to care for the dying. Besides comforting the terminally ill, she said, the program would save taxpayers’ money and “have rehabilitative qualities for these volunteers.”

More than 150 inmate volunteers in Connecticut prisons have since been trained, and the model is now being molded for residents of veterans’ homes in the state.

Here's a person who could imagine good things into existence. May we all be so fortunate, and how fortunate we are for the work she did.

1 comment:

qoe said...

Bless her! Mel Graves, jazz bassist, composer, educator, passed away peacefully last Saturday because of hospice care. This allowed him to be present in spirit the next day at a tribute concert, which ended up being a memorial to his life and work. My beloved voice teacher, Carolyn T. Lewis, passed away peacefully in 1991, attended to by the gentle and loving hands of hospice workers. They are all in the bosom of God.