Belfast Telegraph

Give dying patients dignity, says Gabriel Byrne

Eilish O'Regan

Actor Gabriel Byrne has spoken of how he witnessed the life of one of his dear friends ebb away in a noisy Irish hospital ward, devoid of dignity and respect.

The Dubliner, who now lives in New York, recalled the heart-rending plight of his friend who spent her final hours with a television "blaring out a football match" in the background.

He was among the well-known guests, along with award-winning writer Colum McCann, at the Design and Dignity Fund launch by the Irish Hospice Foundation in New York.

"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," he said.

"It is that space which – as the late Seamus Heaney said – is emptied and pure change happens," he said.

The sad experience left him so appalled and outraged that he joined the campaign by the Irish Hospice Foundation some years ago to improve hospital facilities for dying patients and their loved ones.

The work as a patron has meant the Design and Dignity project is making changes, including helping to provide a family room at a medical ward at Dublin's Mater Hospital to break bad news.

A new book from the Irish Hospice Foundation, 'The Gathering – Reflections on Ireland' was also launched at the event with all proceeds going to the fund. The 256-page hardback includes a contribution from U2 singer Bono.

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