Hospice pioneerWilliam Lamers Jr

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A psychiatrist, Lamers was shocked by something a friend told him: “I’m not sick; I’m only dying.” The friend complained that he wanted to die (from cancer) at home, but his doctor would not let him out of the hospital. It was the early 1970s; Lamers considered the dilemma a failure of the healthcare system, and set out to find a way to change things. He then met psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who pioneered the study of death. Ross suggested he start a hospice, and referred him to the first modern hospice, St. Christopher’s in London, established in 1968. By 1974, Lamers founded perhaps the first west coast hospice in Marin County, Calif., right about the same time that Florence Wald founded an early east coast hospice, in Connecticut. It was Lamers who pushed for hospice services to be performed in the patient’s home, rather than in a central location — the St. Christopher’s model. “In many ways the growth of hospice in this country is a direct result of Bill Lamers’ work and the model he created,” said Ken Doka of the Hospice Foundation of America. Lamers “really moved the notion of hospice from a facility to one’s home.” Dr. Lamers’ death wasn’t reported until this week; he died February 2 from an infection — at home, under hospice care. He was 80.

From This is True for 19 February 2012