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Distributed for University of Scranton Press

From Dark Night to Gentle Surrender

On the Ethics and Spirituality of Hospice Care

Drawing from her many years of experience as a hospice nurse and her training as a theologian, Patricia Kobielus Thompson offers in The Dark Night of the Soul instruction to those providing care for terminally ill patients. Thompson finds in the poetry and other writings of Spanish mystic Saint John of the Cross a wisdom that she argues will assist caregivers in comforting their patients through the trying times just before death. Though much has been written on Saint John of the Cross, Thompson’s application of these works is wholly new and rooted in deep empathy.

259 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2010

Religion: Philosophy of Religion, Theology, and Ethics

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“Within one book we find both a scholarly overview of the evolution of hospice care and a spirituality sufficiently deep to nourish both practitioner and patient. The author deftly manages that difficult feat: informing and inspiring her readers. From Dark Night to Gentle Surrender is a gift that deserves to be passed on and on and on.”

Denise Lardner Carmody, Santa Clara University

Table of Contents


Chapter One: Hospice Care
    Origins of Today’s Modern Hospice Concept
    Cicely Saunders and the First Modern Hospice
     Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
    The Avoidance of Death
    The Present Re-Awakening
    Newer Developments
    Goals of Hospice Care
    Principles of Hospice Care
    The Hospice Code of Ethics
Chapter Two: Ethical Considerations and Their Development
    Direction and Focus of These Considerations
    Convergence of Thought and Development of Focus
    Aristotle: The Nichomachean Ethics
    Thomas Aquinas: The Medieval Synthesis
    Summary of Ancient and Medieval Emphases
    The Hippocratic Writings: Medicine’s Early Documents
    Philosophical Considerations
    Immanuel Kant: Deontological or Obligation-Based Theory
    Utilitarianism and Consequentialism in Retrospect
    W. D. Ross: Theory of Prima Facie Duties
    Positive and Negative Rights
    Mid-Twentieth-Century Growth in Biomedical Ethics
    The Principles Grounding Modern Bioethical
    Covenant Responsibility
    Virtue Ethics: A Return to the Beginning
Chapter Three: The Dark Night of the Soul
    John of the Cross: Sixteenth-Century Spanish Mystic
    Sixteenth-Century Spain: Literature and Milieu
    The Spanish Inquisition
    The Spanish Mystics: John’s Place
    Ascent of Mount Carmel and Dark Night of the Soul
    Dark Night: The Poem and the Purpose of John’s Commentaries
    The Structure of Ascent and Dark Night  
    Natural  Human Passions—Acceptable or To Be Negated?
    Does John Negate Our Natural Intellect?
    Virtue as an Expression of the Contemplative Soul
    Modern Authors
    Women, Spirituality, and Health Care
Chapter Four: Practitioners and the Dark Night
    Medicine and the Law—Influence over Health Care Practitioners’ Decision-Making
    Personal Practice: Practitioners and the Dark Night
    One Man’s Personal Experience—Spirituality and the Health Care System
    Delving into Essentials: From Nursing to Priesthood—One Man’s Journey
    Practitioners: Discernment, Honesty, and Virtue-Centered Practice
    Women’s Issues: A Personal Note
    Hospice, Humility, and a Virtuous Professional Life
    The Process of Discernment
    Personal Background and Point of View: Our Responsibility
Chapter Five: Patients and the Dark Night
    Acceptance, Letting Go, and Resolution of “Unfinished Business”
    Theologian and Patient: Meeting of the Mind and Heart
    Attachment in Our Modern Society
    Practitioners’ Approach to Patients and Families in Light of the Dark Night
    Additional Thoughts and Synthesis for Practitioners
Chapter Six: Summary and Conclusions: Contemporary Spirituality for Terminal Illness
General Overview
    The Documents of Vatican Council II
    The Consistent Ethic of Life
    Further Reflections on The Consistent Ethic of Life
    The Pope Speaks

References Consulted

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