By Peter Nolan A £600,000 appeal for a hospice was launched at Birmingham Council House on Saturday, with the backing of the Lord Mayor, the Catholic and Anglican bishops and other prominent citizens Almost £50,000 has already been raised since Miss Monica Pearce retired as Matron of the General Hospital, Birmingham, and saw the need for a hospice for the dying.
Miss Pearce, who was awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours List, spoke of her concern to Fr Patrick Mitchell, a hospital chaplain and within two weeks the archdiocese found it could make a site available.
Registered as a charity, the proposed 40-bed hospice, which it is hoped will be built by 1977, will be open to the seriously sick, those with terminal illnesses and those being nursed at home for short periods to give those caring for them a break.
On an impressive site bounded on three sides by the green lawns of SeIly Park recreation ground, it will be open to all in need of its services "without regard to race, creed or colour."
Mr John Brown, managing director of the Birmingham Post and Mail, launching the appeal, said he believed that it was the first time a whole city community had been asked by its leaders to build a hospice.
Miss Pearce sees the establishment of the hospice, which will be called St Mary's, as an answer to the threat of euthanasia. It is being built "by people who have a deep-rooted belief that all men and women have equal value and dignity in the eyes of God."
St Mary's has two major functions, the care of the sick who can no longer benefit from treatment in general hospitals, at a time when "curing must give way to caring" and the training of medical students, nurses and clergy in the care of the dying.
The appeal committee state that "ministers of all religions, as well as those of every Christian denomination, will not only be welcomed but actively encouraged to play their special part in caring for the sick, sup porting their relatives and helping the staff."
A specially designed chapel will admit those confined to a wheelchair or even to their bed.
A recent survey by district nurses in Birmingham showed that 50 per cent of pensioners were looked after by relatives themselves over 50 and anothet quarter by relatives over 70. Very often towards the end specialised care is needed tc help with pain and other dis. abilities.
Miss Pearce said the proposal for a hospice had won immediate support from nurses and doctors as well as officials in the local health authority, which will contribute towards its running costs. Nearly £4,000 had been raised from hospitals alone, she said.
Other organisations supporting the project included the Catholic Women's League, whose Birmingham City branehes had raised £600 she said.
Archbishop Dwyer of Birmingham has asked his priests to support the hospice in an Ad Clerum, she added. Bisliop Brown of Birmingham, the Anglican bishop, wrote to the local Press asking for support.
The appeal committee is now seeking some really big backers prepared to give up to £100,000. "I am praying to the Holy Spirit," said Miss Pearce.
Miss Pearce believes the campaign to bring in euthanasia is growing and referred to the BBC-2 television debate chaired by David Dimbleby at the weekend. During this members of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society told of the voluntary euthanasia declaration they were asking people to sign.
There are around 20 hospices already in the country, all voluntary and many of Christian inspiration. Miss Pearce said she knew of groups planning others in Edinburgh, Bristol and Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. An architect's impression of the proposed St Mary's Hospice at Selly Park, Birmingham, for which a £600,000 appeal was launched with the backing of religious and civic leaders at Birmingham Council House on Saturday. To be built as an answer to the threat of euthanasia, the hospice will have conference facilities and run a course for clergy and others on care of the dying.