Some doctors working on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic have published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine sharing their experiences and presenting the unprecedented deontological and ethical challenges they face on a daily basis. We excerpt one comment that, in our opinion, most clearly illustrates the ethical, moral, and sentimental aspects involved when a patient at the end of their life is deprived of the company of their loved ones, including the presence of a priest for those who are believers.

dying alone“The fear of dying alone is nearly universal — a fact of which anyone who’s taken care of a critically ill patient is acutely aware. So we sometimes go to great lengths to give patients just a little more time for family members to arrive and say their goodbyes. One aspect of the Covid-19 pandemic that has been particularly difficult is that instead of our usual promise that “We’ll do everything we can to keep him alive until you get here,” we find ourselves telling families, “Because of hospital policy, we cannot allow visitors at this time.” This conversation sometimes takes place at the doors to the ICU, over the phone, or in front of the hospital, as families beg to see their loved ones before they die. A seemingly simple request, which at other times would be encouraged, has become an ethical and health care dilemma.”

Creative workarounds are proposed to help the patient and their family

 

What is being done? “This dilemma has led to some creative workarounds: nurses may hold the bedside phone up to the patient’s ear or bring their personal smartphone into the room and hold it up while using Skype, WhatsApp, or FaceTime.” (from Not Dying Alone — Modern Compassionate Care in the Covid-19 Pandemic).