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Less than 1 year to live: Robots will decide if you get meds or not

I think it’s safe to say that most of us would rather not think about end-of-life decisions.

How would you feel, though, if someone else were to help you with these decisions? Depending on the person, I’m sure it might help a little. But what if that someone else was a robot? Hmmm. You might have to think about that one.

Chatbot details

To help terminally ill patients make tough choices, there’s now an end-of-life Chatbot that can help. The virtual assistant is designed to lend a non-judgmental ear to help patients feel less anxious about death and more willing to accept the inevitable by completing their last will and testament and planning their funeral.

The robot is set for a trial run in Boston over the next two years. The device was created by a team of researchers, doctors and hospital chaplains by Northeastern University’s Timothy Rickmore and his team.

The Chatbot will also offer spiritual and emotional guidance for anyone who wants it.

The device has already seen some success when tested on 44 people aged 55 and over in Boston. Half of the adults who used the Chatbot had some kind of chronic illness and almost all of them had spent time with someone who was dying.

After spending time with Chatbot, most patients said they felt less anxious about death. 

Next trial stage

Since the first trial of Chatbot was somewhat successful, the next stage will be giving 364 patients tablets loaded with the device. These are patients who’ve been told they have less than a year to live.

This slightly souped-up version is able to take users through guided meditation sessions, a wide range of religious topics and is able to talk to them about their health and medication needs.

Rickmore and his team think that the earlier a person starts thinking about how they want to die, the easier it is to use for those around them to carry out their decisions. The Chatbot does not formalize any plans but rather gets the individual thinking about making choices.

Unlike voice assistants like Siri and Alexa, Chatbot is not fully autonomous. The robot sticks to a fairly rigid script and only asks patients to choose from a pre-written list of responses.

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