Design for End of life

End of life is a profound and inevitable part of life, and thus, human condition. It raises significant and critical questions around the meaning, purpose, fairness and quality of life, on multiple individual, inter-personal, and societal levels.

Design for end of life is an emerging area, gaining visibility and interdisciplinary interest. Current contributions around design and end-of-life are however, limited and disjointed, lacking in critical knowledge base and strategic vision. While valuable, such rush into interventional, operational, and incremental contributions, is archetypal of design’s ‘problem-solving’ approach, and would risk obscuring the broader and potentially significant theoretical, methodological, and empirical contributions between design and end of life.

The Inclusionaries Lab first called for critical discourse and strategic contributions in this field in a position paper published in 2019. Since then, a first systematic mapping review of design contributions to end of life field  has provided further granularity on the state of the field; we know the majority of design interventions are object-based and focused towards final disposition, with a lack of 3rd and 4th order designs i.e. service, interaction and systems. We know the field is being progressed by a triad of Healthcare, Computer Science and Design disciplines, often siloed in their efforts. We also know human-Centred design and co-design are popular approaches, particularly within Healthcare. Strategic implications include transitioning through transdisciplinarity; interconnectivity across the death spectrum; expansion of design theories in the field; and interventions beyond the object.

Our approach is focused on design-led framing, transdisciplinarity, and system-shifting. Coined as ‘Design Meets Death‘, we are initiating a theoretically and empirically informed discourse between the two fields of design and end-of-life in order to identify critical questions, strategic opportunities, and significant contributions. And furthermore, to interrogate and reimagine the narratives as well as the experiences in end-of-life, through inclusive and human-centred innovation.

Our recently funded research include:

  • revisiting ‘legacy in the context of paediatric palliative care – in collaboration with Alder Hey Specialist Palliative Care Unit (funded by Hugh Greenwood Legacy for Children’s Health Research);
  • Reimagining the Hospice of The Future through the lens of human-centred design and advanced robotics – in collaboration with Marie Curie Hospice (funded by Doctoral Network in AI for Future Digital Health).
  • Our trajectory of publications in this area could be accessed here.
  • Hospice of The Future, PhD project and progress can be found here.