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You are waiting in the sterile purgatory of your oncologist in the office between your spouse and your daughter for the doctor to give you the verdict on your recent scans.
"I'm afraid that's not good news," she says softly, her hands folded.
Your lung cancer has grown despite your recent chemotherapy. Surgery, chemo and other treatments, she says, will probably make you ill .
"How long?" asks your spouse.
Four to six months, the doctor answers.
You may feel a wave of horror that is so fiercely confronted with the news of your own death. You may also feel empathy.
That's the point of exercise – the reason you wear a heavy headset. They do not really die, but you look into a virtual world through the eyes of Clay Crowder, a fictional 66-year-old man with incurable lung cancer.
The University of New The England College of Osteopathic Medicine located in Biddeford, Maine, and a nearby hospice use this virtual reality simulation developed by California's Ingedied Labs to help nurses, other hospice workers, and students end their careers Meeting and Engaging Patients with Life
"I was skeptical at first that a virtual reality tool could be so realistic," says Daryl Cady, CEO of Hospice of Southern Maine , "But once I went through it, I realized what a viable method it could be, not just teaching, but also a better understanding of the end of life [the]."
The "Clay" virtual reality project is now being used by some schools, hospice and senior care centers, including Comfort Keepers, a large system of home-based caregivers; Ohio Hospice of Dayton; and in several places of the elderly care communities of the Benedictine health system.
Researchers have discovered that virtual reality simulations like these can make viewers more sensitive to people who virtually embody them: people of different races; People with color blindness; even an avatar of an older version of itself.
The United Nations has created about 20 virtual reality films, including one about a 12-year-old Syrian refugee and another about a Liberian woman whose family died of Ebola.
Last month, Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, exploring the link between virtual reality and empathy, found that people have shown that a compelling VR movie based on the experiences of a homeless person signed a petition to support affordable housing rather than people who read A story that challenges them to consider themselves homeless.
In medicine, virtual reality has been used to reduce pain, help stroke victims, and enable physicians to plan and monitor surgeries.
Videos have allowed viewers to die. Elsewhere, virtual reality has been used directly in dying patients.
Hospitals and hospitals have equipped patients with headsets so they can see realistic simulations of places on their bucket lists.
At the Royal Trinity Hospice in London, a dying man wife and her husband revisited Venice where they had become engaged – the simulation was part of a wider study of the effects of VR on end-of-life physical and mental symptoms. Another woman walked on the beaches of the Maldives. One-third returned to Jerusalem, the city where she grew up.
What they're going through
Carrie Shaw was 19 when her mother was diagnosed early with Alzheimer's disease. When she started nursing care for her mother five years later, she wanted her to understand that brain atrophy could no longer see her from the left side of her eyes. So she covered one side of the glasses with tape. For example, the helpers were able to understand why their mother only ate the food on the right side of their plate.
Later, Shaw earned a master's degree in biomedical visualization and used virtual reality to help physicians feel what their patients felt. She founded the company Manufactied Labs in 2016.
The company's first virtual reality project was called "Alfred". Spectators use a VR headset to see the world through the eyes of a 74-year-old man with hearing loss and vision loss from macular degeneration. Next, Shaw and her colleagues developed the VR story of "Beatriz," a fictional middle-aged woman who is developing through the early and advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease. "Clay" is her latest simulation.
"It's so important that people do not fear a hospice, but understand a hospice," says Cady, Hospice of Southern Maine. "Virtual reality appeals to the next generation, and if they need 30 minutes and wear goggles and even a little understanding, just think about the change we can possibly make."  Victoria Nguyen, a sophomore medical student at the University of New England, witnessed the Clay simulation at the Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough, Maine. As part of a geriatrics class, students can spend 48 hours shadowing hospice sisters.
Nguyen says the world's experience as a "clay" has made her think more about what dying patients might understand when they slide away.
"I think it will help us empathize with our patients," she says. "The opportunity to experience virtual reality gives us an idea of what they can go through and what frustration comes with it."
Virtual reality can also encourage people to plan for the end of life, says Marilyn Gugliucci, director of geriatric education and research at the College of Osteopathic Medicine. The new building of the Hospice of Southern Maine, which is expected to open in 2020, will have a simulation lab for families. Gugliucci has worked with the hospice; For example, their geriatric students have the option of spending 48 hours in the hospice, accompanying nurses who care about dying, and watching the VR video.
"People do not really prepare for death," says Gugliucci. "We're trying to get more people to make introductory statements and to be thoughtful about what they want at the end of their lives, rather than being surprised what's going to happen, I think this lab really does."
Research Suggests While studying medical school, they tend to lose their empathy for their patients. "We definitely want to make sure they stay compassionate," said Gugliucci.
Real empathy, but for whom?
Not everyone believes that virtual reality is beneficial in this way. Researchers already know that simulations for the disabled need to be carefully designed to avoid prejudice.
Blindness simulations, for example, can give an observer an experience that is more blind than the experience of a person who has adapted to live with blindness. The initial experience could lead viewers to believe that blind people are less capable than they are, say critics.
The Yale psychologist Paul Bloom is manifest in his criticism of the virtual reality used to create empathy. Empathy, he argues, can be manipulated: a simulation could create empathy for a Syrian refugee – or for a man who is "hungry in a food line" because a Syrian refugee has taken his job.
And further research is needed on whether these empathy gains last.
In the last scene of the "Clay" simulation, Clay's breath becomes – your – raspy and uneven. One of your daughters reads to you. Your wife gently tells you that you can go.
"It's okay, sweetheart," she says. "You have your girls here."
They stop breathing. Your family kisses you goodbye. Helpers push an American flag-covered gurney out into the sunshine. Your wife and daughters go after you, a final procession.
The screen goes dark.
Kathleen Burge writes on End-Life Care as part of a health care reporting grant sponsored by the Association of Health Journalists and supported by the Commonwealth Fund.
A version of this story originally ran on WBUR's Common Health.