The treacly legacy of Kübler-Ross.

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Sept. 23 2004 9:49 AM

Dead Like Her

How Elisabeth Kübler-Ross went around the bend.

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But is denial always a bad thing? Must death be regimented so it loses its mystery? These questions have some contemporary resonances: Are we in denial if we don't watch every terrorist beheading video or gaze repeatedly at the descent of those who jumped from the World Trade Center towers? Come to think of it, aren't Kübler-Ross' five stages arbitrary in their order? Wouldn't it be more fun to go out angry or better, bargaining, than depressed and accepting? Or maybe with a different "stage" of our own devising. Laughter in the dark?

I'm sure Kübler-Ross was well intentioned and serious-minded before she commodified and quantified her caring into a D 'n' D industry. And I understand why people will turn to her books in time of grief when consolation of any sort is the first priority. Millions of the dead and dying have reason to be grateful to her for raising their standard of care. I just feel we who are about to die (well, sooner or later) deserve better than this treacly simulacrum of pseudo-science to guide us. Her Five Stages of dying is the Emperor's New Shroud.

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