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Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross wrote the book On Death And Dying, which outlined the five stages that terminally ill patients experience.
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Author, psychiatrist. Born on July 8, 1926, in Zurich, Switzerland. Through her ground-breaking research and writings, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross helped revolutionize how the medical community cared for the terminally ill. She had a fragile start in life as a triplet, weighing only two pounds when she and her two other siblings were born. Developing an interest in medicine at a young age, Kübler-Ross encountered intense resistance from her father about her career aspirations. He told her that she could be a secretary in his business or go become a maid.
Defying her family, Kübler-Ross left home at the age of 16 and worked a series of jobs. She also served as a volunteer during World War II, helping out in hospitals and caring for refugees. After the war, Kübler-Ross volunteered to help in numerous war-torn communities. She was profoundly affected by a visit to the Maidanek concentration camp in Poland and the images of hundreds of butterflies carved into some of the walls there. To Kübler-Ross, the butterflies—these final works of art by those facing death—stayed with her for years and influenced her thinking about the end of life.
Kübler-Ross began pursuing her dreams to become a doctor in 1951 as a medical student at the University of Zurich. While there, she met Emanuel Robert Ross, an American medical student. They married in 1958, a year after she graduated, and moved to the United States where they both had internships at Community Hospital in Glen Cove, Long Island. Then she went on to specialize in psychiatry, becoming a resident at Manhattan State Hospital.
In 1962, Kübler-Ross and her husband moved to Denver, Colorado, to teach at the University of Colorado Medical School. She had been disturbed by the treatment of the dying throughout her time in the United States and found nothing in the medical school curriculum at the time that addressed death and dying. Filling in for a colleague one time, Kübler-Ross brought in a 16-year-old girl who was dying from leukemia into the classroom. She told the students to ask the girl any questions they wanted. But after receiving numerous questions about her condition, the girl erupted in anger and started asking the questions that mattered to her as a person, such as what was it like to not be able to dream about growing up or going to the prom, according to an article in The New York Times.
Moving to Chicago in 1965, Kübler-Ross became an instructor at the University of Chicago’s medical school. A small project about death with a group of theology students evolved into a series of well-attended seminars featuring candid interviews with people who were dying.
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