Book Review: On Death and Dying

The featured audio book is ‘On Death and Dying’ by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.  The audio book is based on the book at the same name and actors are used to portray patients that have been interviewed in the book.  For me this was a difficult book to read but also a very powerful and important book. In medicine doctors learn about new and continuous advances that help them to save and improve the quality of life of their patients as well as needing to keep up to date with ever more complex procedures and policies.  Kubler-Ross asks us to consider the dying patient, to empathise with them, to recognise that there are times when understanding is more important than medical intervention.  While this may seem straight forward enough to the medical practitioner, Kubler-Ross with the help of the patients that she has interviewed takes us on a very personal journey through the experiences of patients who are dying.  In the examples we see that sometimes the doctors may avoid the issue of death, finding it difficult to come to terms with death themselves.  Kubler-Ross’s approach is simple.  Sometimes she makes generalisations about  groups of people which are not qualified with evidence but somehow seem to fit perfectly within the book and give us timeless insights which touch on issues central to the core of medicine and also to the human condition itself.  Indeed such generalisations are meant as a framework for beginning to think about the issues rather than a predictive model of how people will respond during this difficult time. We hear Kubler-Ross interviewing a teenage girl, stoical about her condition and then we hear an interview with her mother. We hear from a middle-aged lady who eloquently gives us insights into how she’s been treated by other people when they learn that she’s dying. She understands how people may go out of their way to be more helpful but also has many issues in coming to terms with her own mortality. We hear from a man who worries that he will no longer be able to provide for his family.  In all of these cases Kubler-Ross deals with the issues sensitively and allows the person to express their innermost feelings. In so doing she helps us to see the importance of dignity as death approaches.  Kubler-Ross has written a work so powerful and important that it has become a classic in the field. This should be mandatory reading for those working in the healthcare profession.


Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. On Death and Dying. Macmillan Audio. Narrator Carol Bilger and Cast. 2005.


You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast).


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The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.


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