Dr. Dorothy Ley pioneered the field of hospice care in Ontario

Dr. Ley was a woman with a driving spirit, who made the seemingly impossible possible. A woman with a vision to help and heal others at a time when the medical profession was dominated predominantly by men. Rich in courage and dedication, she put herself through medical school by working in the Niagara canning factories. Through her tenacity and dedication, she went on to become an internationally respected oncologist, treating terminally ill cancer patients with compassion and care.

Dr. Ley’s concern for her patients led her on a mission to develop a patient-centred end-of-life model of care that was more personal and loving. One that could be delivered in an atmosphere where patients could live in comfort, conducting the remainder of their lives with dignity and meaning, while surrounded by the people close to them.

Through her spirit and commitment, Dr. Dorothy Ley pioneered the field of hospice care in Ontario. Her vision and dedication continue to inspire others in medicine and healthcare delivery. In 1991, she helped to establish the Canadian Palliative Care Foundation, to provide a benchmark for others and to give the field the acknowledgement and credibility it deserved.

Dr. Ley believed spiritual care to be a critical component of hospice care and that comfort does not come from medicine alone, but from a touch, a glance, a smile, a goal accomplished. The emblem the Hospice has embraced depicts the leaves of the Elder tree – an ancient symbol for the spirit of a wise woman, for regeneration and hope. A reminder of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth – to bring power and hope in times of grief.

Lovingly dubbed the “heart of hospice”, Dr. Dorothy Ley left us in 1994, after her own battle with cancer. Today, her legacy and spirit live on in the work of the thousands of others who share her vision.  Proof that there is meaning in life, and that the spirit does overcome all in the end.

Dr. Dorothy Ley 1924-1994

  • First Chair, Board of Directors of The Dorothy Ley Hospice
  • Head of Haematology and Oncology, Western Hospital
  • Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto
  • President of the Academy of Medicine, University of Toronto
  • Founder and president, Canadian Palliative Care Foundation
  • Member of the Board, International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement
  • Member of the Board, National Hospice Organization of the USA
  • Member of the Board, International Hospice Institute
  • Recipient of the Canadian Medical Association’s Medal of Service for Contributions to Medicine and Canadian Life
  • Recipient of the Neville Hodson-Walker award for sacrifice beyond the call of duty
  • Dame of the Military and Hospitallier Order of St. Lazarus in Jerusalem


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