Should technology intervene to provide comfort during end-of-life?

Contributed by Dan Chen

I created the end of life machine in 2011, I think. It's about to go to Germany, on a travelling exhibition for five years. I quickly prototype it within two days. I was thinking about my grandmother, she lived in Taiwan, she's kind of far away from me, and she's also getting old. What if she passes away when I'm not there? I kind of want to be there with her, so I was creating this machine based on reflection with me and her. That turns into exhibition. Life is like ... Death is sort of like a personal event, can I share that experience everybody?

I created this installation, putting this in this very hospital-like environment, and I was playing a doctor getting people in and out this space. Getting them to understand that death could be a very lonely experience, and how could technology facilitate with that? Is that the right way of doing it? But my intention was pure, I just want this device to help someone. Having something might be better than nothing, kind of thing.

Several people wrote to me after they see the project. It's pretty divided. One group will be saying, "The device is useless, it's divorcing people from real connection, why don't they have real friends? They should have urgency of getting people around them." Things like that.

In the nursing community, the reality is there is nursing shortage. They see people dying alone every day in the hospital, so they can see usage for this device. As a creator, if I don't control how I output this, or how I manufacture this, it could be used in a very long way without thinking, with very bad consequences. I don't know what that consequences is until it's been deployed, so I don't know. Should I make it or not, because people have been emailing me, "Can I purchase this device?" Which is by itself sort of sad, but at the same time, I could be helpful to them. At the same time, I could be doing damage to them. I don't know whether or not I should be producing this device. That's my ethical dilemma that I wrote down this morning.



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