Kubler-Ross, author and advocate for the hospice movement, dies at 78
August 25, 2004
PHOENIX (AP) - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist who revolutionized the way the world looks at terminally ill patients with her book On Death and Dying and later as a pioneer for hospice care, has died. She was 78.
She died Tuesday of natural causes at her Scottsdale home, family members said. Published in 1969, On Death and Dying focused on the needs of the dying and offered her theory that they go through five stages of grief -denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
"Those who learned to know death, rather than to fear and fight it, become our teachers about life," she once wrote. In another passage, she wrote: "Dying is nothing to fear. It can be the most wonderful experience of your life. It all depends on how you have lived."
Kubler-Ross wrote 12 books after On Death and Dying, including how to deal with the death of a child and an early study on the AIDS epidemic.
"She brought the taboo notion of death and dying into the public consciousness," said Stephen Connor, vice-president of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
In 1979, she received the Ladies' Home Journal Woman of the Decade Award. In 1999, Time magazine named Kubler-Ross as one of the 100 Most Important Thinkers of the past century.
Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Kubler-Ross graduated from medical school at the University of Zurich in 1957. She came to New York the following year and was appalled by hospital treatment of dying patients.
"Whoever has seen the horrifying appearance of the postwar European concentration camps would be similarly preoccupied," she said.
She began her work with the terminally ill at the University of Colorado Medical Center in Denver, and was a clinical professor of behavioural medicine and psychiatry at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
Kubler-Ross began giving lectures featuring terminally ill patients, who talked about what they were going through. That led to her 1969 book.
"Dying becomes lonely and impersonal because the patient is often taken out of his familiar environment and rushed to an emergency room," she wrote.
"He may cry for rest, peace and dignity, but he will get infusions, transfusions, a heart machine, or tracheostomy. . . . He will get a dozen people around the clock, all busily preoccupied with his heart rate, pulse, electrocardiogram or pulmonary functions, his secretions or excretions -but not with him as a human being."
Kubler-Ross is survived her two children, Kenneth Ross and Barbara Lee Ross, and two granddaughters.