Fifty Years Later: Reflections on the Work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross M.D.

In the coming year, we celebrate the 50th publication anniversary of On Death and Dying, by Elisabeth Kübler Ross M.D. As her children, we are privileged that she is remembered, that we continue to hear her voice in the voices of others, and that we had the opportunity to learn from such a compassionate teacher and example. We appreciate the opportunity to share some thoughts about her work and her legacy.

On Death and Dying describes five stages commonly encountered as a person faces his or her own imminent mortality. This came to be known as DABDA: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Even in the earliest discussions of these stages, she points out that the importance of the stages is to develop a way of communicating about and acknowledging emotional responses that vary within and across individuals and cultures. She explicitly states that the stages are meant to promote our understanding of our own and others’ reactions to loss as well as to facilitate health care providers’ ability to communicate with those who are facing loss, and not to define a rigid model of how people react to mortality.

To read The American Journal of Bioethics guest editorial by Barbara Ross Rothweiler & Ken Ross, click here.


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