The Dying Patient: Taboo, Controversy and Missing Terms of Reference for Designers—An Architectural Perspective

Article Summary by Annie Bellamy

Our societies have become more and more removed from the realities of growing old and dying. The language surrounding death, dying and who the ‘patient’ really is has become clouded and confusing, which has only been made worse by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Language and key terms of reference are vital to the work of architects, especially for example when designing buildings for palliative and hospice care. Unlike buildings such as libraries or schools which architects may have common experience of – they now require help from healthcare professionals to empathise and understand the needs of a person dying away from their home. This paper explores work on ageing and dying, to extract, who, it is that design professionals are designing for. It is vital to remember the needs of those we are caring for by being careful with the words we choose to use when working in palliative care environments. Furthermore, we make a call to arms for meaningful collaboration between architecture and healthcare teams to design together positive experiences of care and buildings at the end of life.

Read the full article on the Medical Humanities journal website.


Annie Bellamy is a PhD candidate at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University, and a Lecturer in Architecture at the University of the West of England. As an architectural researcher and designer her research is predicated on practice-led research and human experience in environments of care and found motivation after personal experience within a palliative care environment. Both supervisors of Annie’s doctoral research ‘Designing Dying Well.’


Dr Sam Clark, is a Senior Lecturer in Architecture at the Welsh School of Architecture and Dr Sally Anstey is an Emeritus Reader at the School of Healthcare Sciences, Cardiff University.



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