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Birth and Death: sharing values on your birthday

A platform to encourage families and loved ones to share and discuss their end-of-life values to grow closer and improve care decisions.

Photo of Jay Vidyarthi
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

Most people don't complete "directives" specifying how adverse health events should be handled resulting in suffering and cost. Birth and Death emails you on every birthday - when aging is already on your mind - inviting you to answer scenarios revealing your values around illness & death. Loved ones of all ages answer the same questions and discuss, ensuring the elderly aren't singled out. It auto-generates legal directives, helps families make better decisions, & reduces suffering/cost.
  1. Healthcare providers recommend patients of all adult ages and health statuses to sign up for "Birth and Death," even if they're perfectly healthy. 

  2. The sign-up simply asks for your name and email address.

  3. Every year on your birthday, well-crafted language connecting the aging process to the "big picture" invites to fill out a scenario-based questionnaire

  4. Users can ignore the email, but as birthdays go on year after year, eventually more and more conversion happens, and more people sign up.  Through research-driven design improvements of the communications, but also through the sheer persistence of being engaged each birthday.  I'd imagine the email could engage with related content and reading as well, so even if a user doesn't convert immediately, they're learning more and more about end-of-life issues.

  5. The scenario-based questionnaire involves easy to understand multiple-choice questions to explore what the user would do in specific health events.  For example:

    • Imagine you were having a medical emergency and were likely to pass away, but the doctors could try something which had a 20% chance of rescuing you, but you would have to stay in the hospital in long-term care for the rest of your life.  Would you want the doctors to... A) try the procedure B) let you go

  6. At the end of the questionnaire, the user is encouraged to invite close loved ones who may end up having to make a care decision for them.  Of course, they are warned to ensure they're okay with their multiple-choice answers being shared with those invited family members.  Privacy is important!

  7. Other family members who are invited to the platform fill out the same questionnaire no matter what their age.  Elderly/sick people should not be singled out, families do this together to help it feel normal and important. Young adults should have to go through the process just the same, and the encourages the elderly and sick to feel good about it instead of fearful or shy about discussing these difficult topics.

  8. The platform auto-generates and keeps non-binding legal-style medical directives based on user's answers which can be accessed by family members online for reference or use in difficult situations.  There is also an option for the user to get ahead of the curve by revising/printing these directives and getting them officiated/binded by a lawyer.

This platform accomplishes three main objectives:

  • Equips families to make well-informed value-driven care decisions for their loved ones in a moment of crisis.
  • Creates legal-style directives which were decided in a sober moment which can be instrumental in discussing and carrying out people's will when they face adverse health events.
  • Reduces unnecessary cost and suffering by preventing unfortunate circumstances where the physiological state of being alive is prioritized much more than quality of life.  In other words, preventing circumstances where people are constantly resuscitated and revived despite being in constant pain, relying on machines to live, and being unable to live in any satisfying way, when they may have preferred being allowed to let go peacefully.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I would wireframe out medium-fidelity prototypes of this process, work with experts to formulate sample questions, and do extensive user experience research to validate that the concept is engaging and helpful. I would also take outcomes to medical professionals to validate that the output is useful. There are lots of resources within the healthcare sector that could refine the idea and approach and ensure that it truly meets its objectives.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

I am a design thinking, HCI/UX guy. So if I were to get really serious about making this happen, I'd need business and engineering support primarily.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am the UX Lead for a growing mid-stage startup in Toronto working on exciting things. I have led the conceptualization and design of our successful product using Lean UX and Agile. I do consulting on the side and have worked a lot in the healthcare space with hospitals and health-relevant teams.

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm


Join the conversation:

Photo of Shane Zhao

Very intriguing idea Jay! The notion of sending reminders on one's birthday for people to reflect on their own mortality is fascinating. The theme of celebrating death and birth as complimentary vs opposites has come up a bit in our community during this challenge. It's great to see this theme be explored as an idea. Perhaps you might consider helping people better grasp how this idea could play out by describing some of the proposed activities you've outlined. Check out the user scenarios that Jim created in his idea: Maybe I Know Something About This 

Looking forward to learning more about this!

Photo of Aaron Wong

I'm also glad to see you thinking in online platforms to reach out to family members, friends, and loved ones. In addition to preparation, it can be a great way to expand and share our knowledge about the EoL process, to create community, and make decision-making easier - check out Chiara Pineschi  's online idea in Online platform to connect people who are dying to the living for the passing down of experiences  and how one can help another facing similar situations. I'd love to see what you guys come up with!

Photo of Becky Lee

@Jay Vidyarthi @Shane Zhao I love the ideas of birthdays as moments to reflect and plan. I wonder if there's an opportunity to include a component of emotional connection. In addition to sharing your decisions, maybe you could also share your thought process, what helped you make your decision, or more broadly, prompt a thought or story, like a memory from your life 10 years ago. Maybe even an invitation to ask a loved one a deep question about their own life and/or mortality.Birthdays are already used as opportunities to reconnect with loved ones (or at least their Facebook walls) and I'm curious about how we might build on birthdays as opportunities to connect more deeply. 

Your idea has already inspired some iterations on my own idea : ) would love to keep up the conversation!

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