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How does one humanize a body bag?

This product would humanize transport of the deceased, by placing the body in a custom "death garment" that honors rather than dehumanizes.

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

It is designed for hospitals, nursing facilities, and hospice agencies, as well as people and their families engaged in advance care planning. I envision that it could become as "normal" as buying a burial plot or a headstone.

During my 20+ year career in palliative care, I've had numerous experiences of families arriving at the hospital room to find their recently-deceased loved one already "zipped up" in an opaque plastic body bag, ready for transport to the morgue, or arriving in the morgue where an attendant will "unzip" the deceased.  How utterly dehumanizing a memory for loved ones, and one that fails to communicate the respect due to decedents and their families.

This idea stems from a ritual in the hospice unit I directed at the VA, where every Veteran decedent was transported out of the unit draped with an American flag and we then all partook in a flag-folding ceremony.

I envision an alternative to the body bag -- a personalized "death garment" in which the body is placed shortly after the time of death, and in which it can reside through transport to the mortuary, crematorium, or other final destination.  The death garment could be fashioned in a variety of formats, perhaps quilted together from meaningful garments from the person's/family's life, embroidered with a meaningful phrase, or even custom printed with meaningful photos.  (I realize the last suggestion could be tacky, and/or conjure up images of Shutterfly discount coupons . . .)

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

Survey mortuaries, hospitals, hospice agencies to define their perceptions that this is an important issue to people and their families, and to identify if they'd be interested in a pilot project to delve deeper into families' interest in designing and prototyping one with their loved one.

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

1. Design expertise, including figuring out how to scale this so that it's not inordinately expensive to produce
2. Understanding regulatory issues re. infection control and other requirements of transport pouches
3. Piloting and marketing guidance

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual


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Photo of Vibhu

This is such a cool idea Ken Rosenfeld !! I am curious to know at which stage you see this entering--would someone have in their will/other legal document the specifics of their alternative body bag? Would it be more of a relative/loved one intervening to have the person re-"dressed"? Would it be a service that a hospital provides? Maybe in collaboration with a designer?

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