App for End-of-Life Wishes

Jul 21, 2011 | 0 comments

Technology is updating end-of-life. From QR (quick response) codes on grave markers to a medical directives application for the iPad, it’s amazing what’s taking place at the end of the line.

QR (quick response) codes are two-dimensional bar codes that were created in 1994 by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave to track car parts through the manufacturing process. Now with the rise in smartphone usage, there are apps that allow you to use your smartphone’s camera as a bar code reader.

With the advances in QR code integration you can use your smartphone to scan the QR code which will direct you to a specific website, or in the case of the funeral industry to an online obituary or memorial.

AGG QR CodeYesterday’s USA Today featured an article about QR technology being used in various ways – including on headstones that give details about the deceased associated with that grave marker.

In Seattle, Quiring Monuments has made code-adorned “living headstones” for about two months. It has sold about 30 so far, General Manager Jon Reece said, adding he’s gotten “tons” of inquiries, often from people still very much alive: “They say, ‘I want my story to be told the way I want it to be told.'”

Quiring Monuments offers the QR code, website and website hosting free to people buying new monuments from the company, Reece said, noting the company will add it to existing grave markers for $65.

There’s an app for that!

The Santa Cruz Sentinel recently ran a story titled “How to start the toughest conversation of all” It’s about a local doctor who created a living will app for the iPad. The article by Jondi Gumz, starts:

SANTA CRUZ – When Kathy Corby reaches her last days, she knows how she wants to go.”I want my full-fat latte and a box of chocolates,” she said. “Just because it’s the last part of your life, it doesn’t have to be the worst part.”

Corby, 61, is planning ahead for when that time comes. She wants her family to know what kind of treatment and care she prefers.

“If you don’t tell people what you want, it won’t happen,” said Corby. “It’s hard to begin the conversation, but for me, it’s not.”

She speaks as a family physician with 15 years of experience in emergency medicine.

She has seen people arrive in the emergency room in critical condition, unable to speak for themselves. She’s cared for people with dementia who no longer recognize loved ones.

Doctors do everything possible to keep their patients alive. That could mean a respirator to help the patient breathe, an array of medications, treatments with a 5 to 10 percent chance of success, anything in today’s medical toolbox.

“The default is everything,” said Corby. “Much of it is so futile.”

She recalls with regret a situation in the first year of her medical career. A patient was admitted to the hospital late at night.

“I’m sorry I didn’t ask him what he would have wanted,” she said. “Nobody knew if they were doing the right thing. I’ve seen people struggle with this so often. These decisions have to be talked about.”

You can read more about end-of-life technology in Gail Rubin’s book, A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die.

A Good Goodbye