I think of design as an activity that seeks balance between efficiency and effectiveness. So understanding effectiveness and efficiency, and being able to recognize efficiency and effectiveness in systems, is a fundamental skill in design. In this post, I will describe a situation from my own life of hyper-efficiency in the Ontario health care system. The point is to demonstrate that the notion of balance is useful to explain why systems don’t always work properly.
My father died in 2008, of colon cancer. He went into hospital April 17th and he died June 8th at the age of 91. For those seven weeks – most of which he spent in the palliative ward – he showed remarkable grace and dignity, in spite of what was happening to him and around him. There was relatively little physical pain, thanks to the drugs they administered.
At first, the doctors held out some hope that they could do something to help him. There was a battery of extensive and conclusive tests conducted immediately upon his admission to hospital. By April 19th, they knew his condition was terminal, because the cancer had spread aggressively to his liver.
And that’s when my dad started asking, calmly and seriously, for a morphine overdose. Obviously, the doctors could not give it to him, but he continued to ask every time a doctor came to see him, until he was too weak to speak. Continue reading