Dying: let’s re-think the experience.

In our culture death isn’t fully spoken about, planned for, or an experience we spend much time thinking about. We asked; should we?

The need

End of life care is unbelievably challenging for patients, for their families and loved ones, and for carers, too. But maybe it is possible to make it a little easier. After some personal experiences in our team, we recognised there are all kinds of digital, clinical and organisational opportunities just waiting to be unlocked. But what are they, and how to unlock them?

How we responded

We brought the Royal Trinity Hospice (the only Hospice in the UK to have a Royal charter), The Royal College of Art and Harvard Univesity together to create an exploratory project.

We believe there are ways to enhance the end of life experience, especially through the use of digital resources – planning for death, remembrance, digital presence after death, communications. Many of these areas have not yet been fully explored or utilised.

In collaboration with Nick Leon from RCA and Ronald Jones of Harvard University we scoped the project so student teams investigated the following:

  • Digital presence after death
  • Cultural differences
  • Planning for death
  • A good death
  • Remembrance
  • The role of language

The students worked in teams to run mini design sprints, with expert input from Nick, Ronald and Nile. All ideas culminated in a final presentation to Trinity and a selection of concepts to move forward with.

The results

“This work was reported in the Independent newspaper as a double page centre spread, with the preceding page dedicated to the headline “A Design for Death”. Even Britain’s renegotiation with Europe, which is at a crucial point, didn’t get that much space!

It’s not only a tremendous credit to the team and their impressive work on this project, but also to you all and the impact you are going to make in this world as service designers. Thank you to Nile for your guidance, and to Ron for his special input, as well as Sarah for setting us up in the first place.” Nick Leon, Head of Service Design, Royal College of Art

“The work undertaken on our ‘Death on the High Street’ project will significantly change the perception of dying. As a result of the work we are going to trial, very shortly, a palliative care platform. “

Derek Wyatt, Chairman at Royal Trinity Hospice

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