Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, 1926 - 2004

portrait of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross


Born: 8 July 1926, Zürich, Switzerland
Died: 24 August 2004, Scottsdale, Arizona

Elisabeth Kübler was the first of three identical triplets, she knew she wanted to pursue a medical career from early childhood against her father's wishes. After high school she volunteered in a hospital in Zurich, then worked with refugees from WW II. Visiting the Nazi concentration camp at Majdanek she discovered butterflies carved into the wooden walls and adopted the butterfly's transition from chrysalis to adult as a symbol of the release of the soul at death. She received a medical degree at the University of Zurich, married Emmanuel Ross, and moved to the US. Working in a hospital in New York City she was appalled at the treatment of the dying, seeing doctors routinely conceal the gravity of patients' conditions from them and their families. She took a position at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in 1962, completed a degree in psychiatry the following year. She developed programs to emotionally support the dying and their families. In 1965 she moved to the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine. Here she started a program featuring interviews with the terminally ill to break through to nurses and doctors. Her work lead to the breakthrough book On Death and Dying in 1969, featuring the five stages of the Kübler-Ross model: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This was the first of at least twenty books on the subject. She is credited with much of the growth of the hospice movement in the US, and most medical schools include her work on the required reading list. She established a hospice in Escondido, California and was the cofounder of the American Holistic Medical Association. She conducted workshops on the care of AIDs patients and treated many infants born with the syndrome. She moved the hospice to her own farm in Virginia in 1990 to reduce her traveling, but in 1995 she suffered a series of strokes and her Virginia home was destroyed by a fire believed to have been set by those opposed to her work with AIDs patients. She died at home of natural causes at age 78.

Biography from Wikipedia and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation

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