On Tuesday after lunch, Dr. BJ Miller joined US students in the Design Engineering for Social Good (DESG) class to discuss designing a better death. BJ Miller is a doctor and designer who focuses on redesigning end-of-life care. He is the founder of the Zen Hospice Project, which aims to bring dignity to the process of dying.
In a healthcare system that is originally designed to treat disease rather than people, it is often difficult to die in the way you want: surrounded by family, with choice, and feeling safe. These are the constraints of a complex system that Dr. Miller designs within, and there are many parallels with the challenges that the students in DESG face in their work as well. In DESG, students are designing for incredibly complex problems: facilitating better deaf-to-hearing communication, improving protest conditions, improving female safety on college campuses, and more.
Students shared the work they are doing and all talked about the question “When do we feel the most alive?” Answers ranged from “when staring at the stars” to “when driving really fast in my car with the sunroof down,” and students talked about how they could incorporate in their designs ways to make their users “feel more alive.” By hearing how Dr. Miller made people feel more alive in death, students realized that making people feel more alive is not only something that should be present in death, but also throughout life.
BJ’s perspectives of the world as a triple amputee, art major, and doctor provided new insights for students to bring into their work as designers in this class and beyond.
March 17, 2017