Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
|Born||July 8, 1926|
|Died||August 24, 2004 (aged 78)|
Scottsdale, Arizona, United States
|Known for||Kübler-Ross model|
|Spouse(s)||Manny Ross (1958–1979)|
|Institutions||University of Chicago|
|Influenced||Caroline Myss, Vern Barnet, Bruce Greyson, Sogyal Rinpoche|
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (July 8, 1926 – August 24, 2004) was a Swiss-American psychiatrist, a pioneer in near-death studies and the author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying (1969), where she first discussed her theory of the five stages of grief, also known as the "Kübler-Ross model".
She was a 2007 inductee into the National Women's Hall of Fame. She was the recipient of nineteen honorary degrees and by July 1982 had taught, in her estimation, 125,000 students in death and dying courses in colleges, seminaries, medical schools, hospitals, and social-work institutions. In 1970, she delivered an Ingersoll Lecture at Harvard University on the theme On Death and Dying.
Elisabeth Kübler was born on July 8, 1926, in Zürich, Switzerland, one of triplets. Elisabeth was born fifteen minutes before her identical sister Erika. Minutes later came her sister Eva. Her family were Protestant Christians. Her father did not want her to study medicine, but she persisted. Eventually her father took pride in her career. In an interview she stated:
In Switzerland I was educated in line with the basic premise: work work work. You are only a valuable human being if you work. This is utterly wrong. Half working, half dancing - that is the right mixture. I myself have danced and played too little.
In 1958 she married a fellow medical student from America, Emanuel ("Manny") Ross, and moved to the United States. Becoming pregnant disqualified her from a residency in pediatrics, so she took one in psychiatry. After suffering two miscarriages, she had a son, Kenneth, and a daughter, Barbara, in the early 1960s. Her husband requested a divorce in 1979.
Kübler-Ross moved to New York in 1958 to work and continued her studies.
As she began her psychiatric residency, she was appalled by the hospital treatment of patients in the U.S. who were dying. She began giving a series of lectures featuring terminally ill patients, forcing medical students to face people who were dying.
In 1962 she accepted a position at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Kübler-Ross completed her training in psychiatry in 1963, and moved to Chicago in 1965. She became an instructor at the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine. She developed there a series of seminars using interviews with terminal patients, which drew both praise and criticism. She sometimes questioned the practices of traditional psychiatry that she observed. She also undertook 39 months of classical psychoanalysis training in Chicago.
Her extensive work with the dying led to the book On Death and Dying in 1969. In it, she proposed the now famous Five Stages of Grief as a pattern of adjustment: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In general, individuals experience most of these stages when faced with their imminent death. The five stages have since been adopted by many as applying to the survivors of a loved one's death, as well.
In 1977 she persuaded her husband to buy forty acres of land in Escondido, California, near San Diego, where she founded "Shanti Nilaya" (Home of Peace). She intended it as a healing center for the dying and their families. She was also a co-founder of the American Holistic Medical Association.
In the late 1970s, she became interested in out-of-body experiences, mediumship, spiritualism, and other ways of attempting to contact the dead. This led to a scandal connected to the Shanti Nilaya Healing Center, in which she was duped by Jay Barham, founder of the Church of the Facet of the Divinity. Claiming he could channel the spirits of the departed and summon ethereal "entities", he encouraged church members to engage in sexual relations with the "spirits". He may have hired several women to play the parts of female spirits for this purpose. Kubler-Ross' friend Deanna Edwards attended a service to ascertain whether allegations against Barham were true. He was found to be naked and wearing only a turban when Edwards unexpectedly pulled masking tape off the light switch and flipped on the light.
Kübler-Ross also dealt with the phenomenon of near-death experiences. She reported on her interviews for the first time in her book On Death and Dying: What the dying have to teach doctors, nurses, clergy, and their own families (1969)
One of her greatest wishes was her plan to build a hospice for infants and children infected with HIV to give them a last home where they could live until their death, inspired by the aid-project of British doctor Cicely Saunders. In 1985 she attempted to do this in Virginia, but local residents feared the possibility of infection and blocked the necessary re-zoning. In 1994, she lost her house and possessions to an arson fire that is suspected to have been set by opponents of her AIDS work.
Kübler-Ross suffered a series of strokes in 1995 which left her partially paralyzed on her left side, and the Shanti Nilaya Healing Center closed around that time. She found living in a wheelchair, slowly waiting for death to come, an unbearable suffering, and wished to be able to determine her time of death. In a 2002 interview with The Arizona Republic, she stated that she was ready for death. She died in 2004 at a nursing home in Scottsdale, Arizona, and was buried at the Paradise Memorial Gardens Cemetery.
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