Ten Thousand Crossroads
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Recognized as the father of palliative care in North America, Balfour Mount facilitated a sea change in medical practice by foregrounding concern for the whole person facing incurable illness. In this intimate and far-reaching memoir, Mount leads the reader through the formative moments and milestones of his personal and professional life as they intersected with the history of medical treatment over the last fifty years. Mount's lifelong pursuit of understanding the needs of dying patients began during his training as a surgical oncologist at Montreal's Royal Victoria Hospital in the 1960s. He established the first comprehensive clinical program for end-of-life care in a teaching hospital in 1975 at McGill University's Royal Victoria Hospital, thus leading the charge for palliative medicine as a new specialty. His journey included collaboration with two storied healthcare innovators, British hospice pioneer Dame Cicely Saunders and American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, leading to a more fulsome understanding of the physical, psychosocial, and existential or spiritual needs of patients, their families, and their caregivers in the health care setting. This compelling narrative documents how the 'Royal Vic' team became internationally recognized as effective advocates of quality of life at the crossroad between life and death. From meetings with Viktor Frankl, the Dalai Lama and other teachers, to a memorable telephone chat with Mother Teresa, Mount recalls with appreciation, humour and humility, the places and people that helped to shed light on this universal human experience.