Alternative to co-opted: An examination of the trajectory of the hospice movement



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Hospice began as a movement that was critical of the treatment of terminal patients within traditional medicine and its cure-oriented logic arguing that traditional medical practices and policies can be dehumanizing for the terminally ill (Dubois 1980; Munley 1983; Stoddard 1991; Levy 1994). The progressive and alternative ideals of the early hospice movement were loaded with political issues and challenged an assumed logic within traditional medicine. The movement then shifted the majority of its energies towards the growth and organization of hospice facilities. The transition from medical movement to a medical organization or service does not seem inevitable or natural given its critical origins. Historical accounts of the movement’s development have highlighted the perceived need for an alternative way of dying and more recent studies document the current practices of hospice, but a complete narrative from movement to organization seems to be lacking. The purpose of this paper is to examine the transition of hospice from an alternative to accepted ideology and the movement’s relationship with traditional medicine. Through a systematic analysis of The Hospice Journal, the official National Hospice Organization’s publication from 1985-2001, a theoretical understanding of this movement’s unique trajectory is be developed.



Hospice, Social movements, Medical sociology, Palliative care