Back to PHI 350 Home Page

I) Description of Presentation

Kubler-Ross and other Approaches

Baxter Jennings

Charlene Gemmill

Brandie Bohman

Kristin Lamb


Our presentation will be discussing different theoretical models of the dying process, of which Kubler-Ross is probably the most familiar. Often times, people feel uncomfortable talking to and interacting with a person who is dying. This is at least partly because we have no way to understand their perspective, and what they are experiencing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Studying the Kubler-Ross theory and other approaches to the dying process can help us become more comfortable by increasing our understanding and adding insight into the perspective of the dying person. Hopefully this can begin to help increase communication and interaction during a dying person's last days. After a short video, we will cover the Kubler-Ross stage theory, criticisms of Kubler-Ross and stage theories in general, and additional theoretical models.

Video: Series of clips from the movie My Life, which help illustrate and provide concrete examples of theoretical stages to be mentioned later.

Kubler-Ross Theory

1. Denial and Isolation: Used by almost all patients in some form. It is a usually temporary shock response to bad news. Isolation arises from people, even family members, avoiding the dying person. People can slip back into this stage when there are new developments or the person feels they can no longer cope.

2. Anger: Different ways of expression

-Anger at God: "Why me?" Feeling that others are more deserving.

-Envy of others: Other people don't seem to care, they are enjoying life while the dying person experiences pain. Others aren't dying.

-Projected on environment: Anger towards doctors, nurses, and families.

3. Bargaining: A brief stage, hard to study because it is often between patient and God.

-If God didn't respond to anger, maybe being "good" will work.

-Attempts to postpone: "If only I could live to see . . ."

4. Depression: Mourning for losses

-Reactive depression (past losses): loss of job, hobbies, mobility.

-Preparatory depression (losses yet to come): dependence on family,


5. Acceptance: This is not a "happy" stage, it is usually void of feelings. It takes a while to reach this stage and a person who fights until the end will not reach it. It consists of basically giving up and realizing that death is inevitable.

Criticisms of Kubler-Ross

Additional Theoretical Models

He stresses:

Five Main Points

1. The stages of the Kubler-Ross theory include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

2. Recently, the Kubler-Ross theory has come under more criticism from social psychologists.

3. Corr's model emphasizes individual empowerment and guidelines for caregivers.

4. Zlatin's theory makes use of what she terms "life themes" in the dying process.

5. The totality of a person's life as well as his/her own personality and experiences will influence their method of coping with impending death.


The presentation went very well, and student feedback was very positive. Most people said they enjoyed the video and the especially the fact that the group was not just reading material but actually presenting. A few people suggested that we not use Power Point, while others said they thought the multimedia approach worked well. On the whole, the class seemed to find it clear, informative, and interesting and had few suggestions for change.

II) Research

Our topic lent itself to division, so most of the research was pretty evenly split up between group members. Charlene researched the Kubler-Ross theory by using Kastenbaum p.111-112 and by reading On Death and Dying, by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Baxter used material from Kastenbaum p.112-116 in the introduction and in searching for and screening movies to use in the video clip. Brandie studied criticisms of Kubler-Ross using Kastenbaum p.112-114, Internet searches, and encyclopedia on disk searches. Kristin researched other approaches by using Internet searches, library searches, and studying the material in Kastenbaum p.114-116.