Although most areas of human experience are nowadays discussed freely and openly, the subject of death is still surrounded by conventional attitudes and reticence that offer only fragile comfort because they evade the real issues. The dying may thus be denied the opportunity of sharing their feelings and discussing their needs with family, friends, or hospital staff. Although receiving devoted medical care, a dying patient is often socially isolated and avoided, since professional staff and students can find contact painful and embarrasing.
Aware of the strains imposed on all sides by this situation, Dr Kubler-Ross established a seminar at the University of Chicago to consider the implications of terminal illness for patients and for those involved in their care. Patients invited to talk about their experience often found great relief in expressing their fear and anger and were able to move towards a state of acceptance and peace. The seminar, initially composed of students of medicine, sociology, psychology, and theology, but later joined by hospital staff and relatives of patients, enabled many members to come to terms with their own feelings and to respond constructi to what the patients had to teach them.