In the past, the term “hospice” was rooted in the centuries-old idea of offering a place of shelter and rest, or “hospitality,” to weary and sick travelers on long journeys. In 1967, Dame Cicely Saunders first applied the term “hospice” to the specialized care of dying patients at St. Christopher's Hospice in London. In the contemporary world, hospice care now refers to care that is targeted specifically at terminally ill patients. Sometimes called “end-of-life” care, hospices aim to provide humane and compassionate care for people in the last phases of an incurable disease, so that they may live as fully and comfortably as possible.
This essay discusses issues relating to hospice care in China, from the framework of the philosophy of death and dying and the Daoist viewpoint on life and death, as outlined in the Zhuangzi. According to Zhuangzi, the world of experience is constantly transforming and death is part of that transformation. Hence, it is possible for the adaptive qualities of the perfectly well-adjusted person to remain balanced in the midst of this maelstrom of change and transformation. This realization of the impermanence of life and the transient nature of worldly fame and wealth leads to the Daoist ethical positions of “non-attachment” (wuzhi) and “non-self” (wuwo), which can help the individual to ultimately transcend the dichotomy between life and death, or life-affirmation and life-egation.
This essay argues that a positive view towards life and death,as represented in Daoism, can help the patient and their family to deal with the pain of terminal illness. The essay also points out that good hospice care, which includes the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the patient, is an ethical and social issue that requires attention from both academia and society. The ideal model for hospice care should involve H (Hospitality), O (Organized Care), S (Symptom Control), P (Psychological Support); (Individual Care), (Communication), and E (Education).