Stanford acquires archive of palliative care pioneer Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

The archive of the influential psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who developed the theory of the five stages of grief, has been given to Stanford Libraries.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross 
Courtesy of The Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Archive, Department of Special Collections, Stanford Libraries

The archive of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, MD, the late hospice and palliative care pioneer and author of some two-dozen books, including the 1969 On Death & Dying, has been acquired by Stanford Libraries Department of Special Collections.

The Swiss-American psychiatrist is best known for having developed the theory of the five stages of grief. 

“The Kübler-Ross Archive is a wonderful addition to our Special Collections and offers tremendous opportunity for interdisciplinary investigation and exploration across law, medicine and sociology, to name only a few,” said Matt Marostica, PhD, JD, associate university librarian for public service and collection development. 

David Magnus, PhD, the Thomas A. Raffin Professor in Medicine and Biomedical Ethics and director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, identified unpublished lectures and essays by Kübler-Ross from the late 1970s and early 1980s. He proposes to edit them for publication. Among the many documents in the archive, he highlighted a trove of thousands of letters from dozens of countries reflecting her widespread influence around the world.

Maren Monsen, director of the Program in Bioethics and Film at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, plans to make use of video components of the Kübler-Ross archive in documentary films. After the video content is transferred to a high-quality digital format, she intends to create educational videos for distribution to multidisciplinary trainees in the health professions.

The children of Kübler-Ross — Ken Ross, president of the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation, and Barbara Rothweiler, PhD — chose to give the archive to Stanford Libraries after meetings in Phoenix with faculty and with Benjamin Stone, curator for American and British history at the libraries.

Like most modern archives, the collection runs the gamut from manuscript and printed materials to correspondence, photographs, video and audio recordings. Most important, it contains archived, not-yet-made-public work by the pioneering thinker and practitioner in the palliative care movement.

The earliest item in the archive is a family scrapbook from the 1930s depicting Kübler-Ross’ childhood in Switzerland. The bulk of the archive includes material from the 1980s to 2000s, a period in which her ideas gained greater traction. Of special note are complete runs of newsletters from the Shanti Nilaya Healing Center, which she founded in Escondido, California, as well as manuscript drafts of her memoir, The Wheel of Life.



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