Gabriel Byrne makes plea to improve experience of the dying in Irish hospitals

Gabriel Byrne

GABRIEL Byrne has appealed for support for “the simple and transformational changes” taking place in Irish hospitals aimed at making death more bearable for those at end of life and for family and friends left behind.

The award-winning actor, a Patron of the Irish Hospice Foundation, was launching the charity’s Design and Dignity Fund in the United States at an event in New York  tonight.

The Fund is being used to redesign rooms in Irish hospitals to make them more sympathetic to the needs of people who are dying.

“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 event.

“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.

“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”, added Byrne.

The actor confirmed that the IHF’s Design and Dignity project was already changing things for the better.

“In cooperation with hospital staff they are providing design expertise to create spaces where bad news can be broken, where those who have got the dreaded call to fly home to be with a loved one near death can have the space and the privacy for final words and where families can be with someone who has just passed away, in dignified and respectful surroundings.”