Thursday, August 26, 2004

Swiss Expert on Dying Finds Final Rest

Swiss-born psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, whose provocative books revolutionized how the living talk about death and advocated a belief in the afterlife, died Tuesday in Scottsdale, Ariz., of natural causes.

She was 78 and not afraid. "I always say that death can be one of the greatest experiences ever," she told USA TODAY in 1997 after a series of strokes left her bedridden. "I've been praying for it for two years."

Her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, helped people understand the emotions surrounding dying and grieving — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — and helped launch the hospice-care movement.

Kübler-Ross wrote of her experiences at the University of Colorado Medical Center in Denver with terminally ill patients who "may cry for rest, peace and dignity, but ... will get infusions, transfusions, a heart machine, or tracheostomy." In 1999, Time named Kübler-Ross among the 100 most important thinkers of the 20th century.

Elisabeth Kübler was born in Zurich; she graduated from medical school at the University of Zurich in 1957 and began studying in New York in 1958. She was separated from her husband, Emanuel Ross, when he died in 1992.

Kübler-Ross wrote 12 books after On Death and Dying. One of the most controversial was her 1992 book, On Life After Death, based on interviews with more than 20,000 people who gave similar accounts of near-death experiences.

In 1995, after a series of debilitating strokes, she fought for her health, even turning to natural healers. She kept a totem pole in her front yard, and she said spirits had told her she was a Native American in her past life.

What mattered most in life, she said, she learned from those about to leave it: "Live so you don't look back and regret that you've wasted your life. Live life honestly and full." Kübler-Ross is survived by a son, daughter and two granddaughters.


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