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Swiss "death" psychiatrist very much alive at 75

The Swiss psychiatrist and death researcher, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, celebrated her 75th birthday on Sunday at her home in the United States.

Kübler-Ross, a controversial figure best known for her work in studying death and the dying, was born in Switzerland but has spent most of her working life in the US.

The Swiss thanatologist first rose to prominence in the 1960s, when she published her seminal work, "On Death and Dying", a text which challenged long-established taboos concerning the terminally ill.

Her follow-up book, "Interviews with the Dying", was published in 1969 to worldwide acclaim.

For many years, Kübler-Ross worked with terminally ill patients in New York state hospitals.

On her initiative, the first ever hospices were established in the US. One of her greatest achievements was to help found the International Children's Hospital in Washington.

Her books on the subject of death have been translated into more than 20 languages and have sold millions of copies.

Kübler-Ross is an outspoken critic of social conventions in her homeland. In a 1998 interview for German television, Kübler-Ross launched a strongly worded attack on the Swiss work ethic.

"In Switzerland, I was brought up with the words 'work, work, work' ringing in my ears," the Swiss septuagenarian said.

"'You only serve a purpose as a human being if you are working', I was often told. This is completely false. Half work, half dance. That is the right mix."

Fear of death, a concept Kübler-Ross has challenged for decades, is not something the psychiatrist herself suffers from.

"Preparing to die, " Kübler-Ross maintains, " is just like preparing to go on holiday. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to it".

"The main purpose of my life," she once said, "is to convince people that death does not exist."

swissinfo with agencies


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