Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury, and disease from agonising to manageable. But when it comes to the inevitable realities of ageing and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should. In recent years death has become a medicalised experience as opposed to a humanised experience. End of life care puts our fates in the hands of people valued more for their technical accomplishments than for their understanding of human needs.
In this two weeks project, we aim to design an experience that enables or enhances a good death. We focused on the circumstances of stillbirth asking themselves the question: What is a good death for someone who didn’t even have a chance to live? For example, what would be a good death to an unborn fetus?
INITIAL RESEARCH MODEL
We wanted to think more about the effects of stillbirth on parents, their immediate family and friends and their workplace. We connected the uncertainty and danger of pregnancy to a balloon. We used bundling to make it look more powerful. We used a red powder to show the effects of stillbirth because the diffusivity and visual effects of power are consistent with the event itself.
Our group encountered many variations in how people are treated when their babies die before term. For example, until recently a foetus that died before 13 weeks was treated as, and disposed of with, medical waste. We found research showing that when mourning is facilitated, the family is likely to adjust better to its bereavement. Doctors and nurses should learn how to facilitate mourning and should accept the strange and sometimes bizarre forms this may take. In addition, midwives and nurses appear to experience significant and personal adverse effects as a result of caring for families experiencing loss. Improved bereavement training may help obstetricians care for grieving families but also cope with their own emotions after this devastating event.
This research was presented in the form of written findings and also as a physical model bringing people in direct relation to the embodied and emotional resonances of stillbirth.