At the launch of a US fundraising push by the Irish Hospice Foundation in New York, Byrne said that the clinical culture and physical surroundings within Irish hospitals often contribute to the trauma felt by dying people and their loved ones.

“I attended the bedside of a friend who was dying in a Dublin hospital. She lived her last hours in a public ward with a television blaring out a football match, all but drowning our final conversation,” he said at the launch of the charity’s Design and Dignity Fund in the United States.

“I looked around this depressing place, with the cheap curtain separating her from other patients, walls painted nondescriptly institutional, the awful food, the ubiquitous smell of disinfectant mixed with human odour, and I began to think about the physical environment in which we might spend our final hours, that space which, as the late Seamus Heaney said, is ‘emptied’ and ‘pure change’ happens,” said Byrne, patron of the foundation. “I have since come to believe that in hospital aesthetics are as important as function, that both are in fact closely linked. And that an aesthetic environment automatically leads to good practice and better care.”

Michael O’Reilly, chairman of the Design and Dignity project, said that when people are beyond cure it becomes a “sacred obligation” to attend to death with care and dignity. (Times) >

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