Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926–2004) Best known for her 1969 book On Death and Dying, psychiatrist Elisabeth KüblerRoss was among the first medical professionals to document cases of near-death experience, which she wrote about in The Tunnel and the Light (1999). Kübler-Ross was also considered the foremost expert on the psychological aspects of death and dying. She wrote more than twenty books on dying and held more than twenty honorary doctorates.

Born in Switzerland, Kübler-Ross graduated from the University of Zürich Medical School in 1957, and the following year she married an American physician and moved to New York, where she began practicing psychiatry. As part of her practice she saw patients who were terminally ill and needed help coping with the psychological aspects of their illness and impending death. Some of these patients had experienced clinical death and had been revived. Those who had gone through this experience told Kübler-Ross that their spirits had continued to exist even after their bodies were dead. For example, in the late 1960s one of Kübler-Ross’s patients, a Mrs. Schwartz, said that while her body was dead, her mind remained aware. In fact, she recalled feeling herself float up to the ceiling, and from that vantage point she had been able to view everything the doctors were doing to revive her. Shortly after telling Kübler-Ross this story, Mrs. Schwartz died and could not be revived; not long after that, Kübler-Ross thought she saw Mrs. Schwartz’s ghost. This furthered her growing conviction that the spirit survived after death.

Eventually, Kübler-Ross became interested in out-of-body experiences, whereby the spirit supposedly leaves a living body and travels some distance away. She soon found that she could induce her own out of-body experiences after engaging in certain relaxation techniques, such as those that precede meditation. When she spoke about these experiences to colleagues in the 1970s, her reputation as a serious medical professional suffered. Nonetheless, she continued with her work, and in the 1980s she began to concentrate on offering support to dying AIDS patients. She also gave numerous workshops on issues related to death and dying.


  • near-death experiences;
  • out-of body experiences


The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning