The formal study of the nature of death and dying. Prior to
the demarkation of thanatology as a new area of specialization,
the study of various aspects of death had been included in psychology
and parapsychology. Parapsychological research has
concentrated on three human experiences that seem to be part
of the death experience 1) the sensation of floating out of the
body; 2) feelings of peace or wholeness; and 3) meetings with
someone who has died previously. Studies of what today is
called the near-death experience have been made by psychical
researchers since the nineteenth century, often under the label
death-bed experiences.
Significant in defining the new field of thanatology has been
the work of physician Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, author of the
book On Death and Dying (1970), whose work began with a concern
for the grief process she frequently encountered in counseling
with dying patients. Her continued interest led her to
questions of survival of death, traditionally an area of psychical
studies. She is the founder of Shanti Nilaya, a healing and
growth center in Virginia. Among the leading centers focused
on research in thanatology are the International Institute for
the Study of Death in Florida and the International Association
for Near-Death Studies.
Kastenbaum, Robert, ed. Between Life and Death. New York
Springer Publishing, 1979.
Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Death and Dying. New York Macmillan
Co., 1969.
———. To Live Until We Say Goodbye. Englewood Cilffs, N.J.
Prentice-Hall, 1978.
Osis, Karlis, and Erlendur Haraldsson. At the Hour of Death.
New York Avon Books, 1977.
Ring, Kenneth. Heading Toward Omega—In Search of the
Meaning of the Near-Death Experience. New York William Morrow,