Home / Tech News / VR helped a terminally ill diver swim the Great Barrier Reef from a hospital bed

VR helped a terminally ill diver swim the Great Barrier Reef from a hospital bed


One day, technologies like 3D bioprinting and artificial intelligence could all but halt death. Today, we can’t necessarily do that — but cutting-edge tech can greatly improve people’s end of life experience.

That’s what a charity in the U.K. aimed to achieve this week, when it used virtual reality to grant a terminally ill cancer patient what could, quite literally, be the wish of a lifetime.

“He may not be able to get there physically, but he could experience it virtually from his bed.”

37-year-old Matthew Hill was admitted to St. Luke’s Hospice specialist unit in Plymouth with late-stage bowel cancer. Although he and his family had managed it for a while, his condition had worsened to the point where it was now impossible for him to be cared for at home.

As an avid diver, Hill had always wanted to swim in the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral system. Unfortunately, his advanced bowel cancer meant that there was no way that this would be feasible. Never mind getting on a plane and flying across the world; the spinal compression that was a result of Hill’s illness meant that he couldn’t even sit upright in bed.

“Our nurses wanted to try and fulfill Matthew’s dream in some way,” Gabby Prior, Communications Officer at St Luke’s Hospice, Plymouth, told Digital Trends. “He may not be able to get there physically, but he could experience it virtually from his bed. The head of our Crisis Team, Sharon Smerdon, had heard that virtual reality was an emerging technology, but didn’t know any specifics.”