And we return with another Women in History section, where the focus is on the achievements of some of the great women who graced our planet. Today we’ll be speaking about Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.
Elizabeth was born in Switzerland on July 8th 1926, interestingly she is one baby out of set of triplets. After the Second World War, Elizabeth started volunteering with the International Voluntary Service for Peace, and through this voluntary service started helping victims who had been in the concentration camps in Germany and Poland.
Upon her return to Switzerland, she started studying medicine, getting her degree in 1957. She had always had an interest in medicine, however, her father did his utmost to dissuade her from achieving this dream – instead he told her that she could become a secretary or a maid instead. Thankfully, Elizabeth did not listen to her father, however, she did have to leave home at the age of 16 and work a series of jobs. Nevertheless, she achieved her dream of studying medicine.
A few years later, she travelled to the US to practice medicine and continue specialising. She wanted to study paediatrics, however, she went into psychiatry instead. She graduated as a psychiatrist in 1963 from the University of Colorado. She had a particular interest in death and dying, and she continued to study this topic, even doing weekly seminars on death for terminally ill patients.
In 1967, she published her book On Death and Dying, where she outlined the 5 stages people who are dying go through. She always had an interest in the subject, and was shocked by the treatment of terminally ill patients by medical practitioners. It is reported that while she was teaching at the University of Colorado, she replaced one of her colleagues and instead of doing the curriculum, she brought in a 16 year old girl who was suffering from Leukemia. She asked the students present to ask this girl any question they want. After a few questions revolving purely around her condition, the girl erupted in anger and pointed out that she was a person as well – a person who could not have dreams or aspirations, who may not get to go to Prom. This shows clearly that Elizabeth has a deep respect for those suffering from terminally ill conditions, and did her utmost for these “patients” to be seen as “people” instead.
Unfortunately, in 1995, after a series of strokes which left her partially paralysed, Elizabeth retired to Arizona. She died on August 24th, 2004.