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On Death and Dying Paperback – June 9, 1997
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Medical Opinion & Review On Death and Dying can help us face, professionally and personally, the end of life. -- Review
About the Author
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, MD, [1926–2004] was a Swiss-born psychiatrist, humanitarian, and co-founder of the hospice movement around the world. She was also the author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying, which first discussed The Five Stages of Grief. Elisabeth authored twenty-four books in thirty-six languages and brought comfort to millions of people coping with their own deaths or the death of a loved one. Her greatest professional legacy includes teaching the practice of humane care for the dying and the importance of sharing unconditional love. Her work continues by the efforts of hundreds of organizations around the world, including The Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation: EKRFoundation.org.
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It was written in the late 1960s, but its findings are as relevant today as ever.
It became a textbook read in every medical school in the world, and its messages informed a generation of those responsible for institutional end-of-life care.
I bought it for background reading during research I needed to do to write a history of the hospice in my hometown in New Zealand, New Plymouth.
It's incredibly informative, and I can see how it would radically change approaches in the western world's hospices and medical wards.
The sad thing is the author's name has disappeared from the reference lists of modern texts on this topic, and I suspect for a bizarre reason.
When she was in her 90s, Kubler-Ross wrote a last book on the subject of whether there is an after-life.
She was convinced one exists, after observing what happened to blind patients who suffered a near-death event and despite their lack of vision were able to describe what members of the life-saving crash team wore.
She interviewed many patients with similar stories to tell, which persuaded her that something existed for us after we departed this life.
But her views were debunked, and her credibility was destroyed.
The findings she made in this earlier book are strongly present in many of the books that have followed - but she gets no credit for them.
It amounts to a massive case of intellectual dishonesty on the part of those who fail to recognise her fundamental contribution
She grew up in Switzerland during WWII, an identical twin in a triplet birth. She grew up unrecognised as an individual, part of the circus of attention that triplets bring. When she was 16 and the war had ended, she walked to Russia and back again, working in the reconstruction of post-war Europe.
She stood in the doorway to the chambers at Maidanek, a Polish concentration camp. She looked at the wooden walls, etched with last messages and images of butterflies symbolising life after death. She met a 16 year old Jewish survivor ~ only survived because she was unable to fit into the chamber that stole the lives of her family. Elisabeth asked her about her hatred of her captors and the girl replied something about not strewing the seeds of hate, that we all have an inner Hitler when we are faced with our own mortality.
With that, she went to medical school in Zurich, met an American student, married him and moved to America. She turned her focus from pediatrics to psychology, and began to notice how terminal patients were virtually ignored in hospitals ~ as though dying was something to be ashamed of. She began to visit patients, sitting with them as they talked, listening to their needs and their stories, finding that there is a wealth of wisdom in those frail people.
Dr Kubler-Ross believed in the dignity of living with dying. She polished the art of listening to the needs of terminal patients, how to allow them to pass with tenderness and non-intervention. To make dying a time of preciousness and honour. She taught me how to be present for my mother when she died.
When I got the call that Mama needed me, I didn't know what to do. As I packed to take the plane over land and oceans to go home to Delaware, I brought 'On Death and Dying', I brought a Ram Dass recording "Here We all Are" and a Crowded House cd with 'Fall at Your Feet'. Each one was instrumental in helping me give my mother a loving, hands-on, joyful exodus from the pain of cancer.
I recommend this book highly. Not only for assisting with a peaceful death, but as a sufferer of the grief of losing someone who meant the world to me. Kubler-Ross' Five Stages eventually became a recognised Psychological Theory on the Five Stages of Grief. Worthwhile to read once, enlightening to read over and over again.