An important bioethical issue is to acknowledge and respect the religious preference of patients in their health care, an aspect that has been studied in several papers. As an example, we excerpt the following study, entitled “The role of spirituality in health care” (read full study HERE). In our opinion, although written some years ago, it remains particularly relevant today:
This article stated that “Several prominent organizations have recognized the importance of spiritual care. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has a policy that states: ‘For many patients, pastoral care and other spiritual services are an integral part of health care and daily life. The hospital is able to provide for pastoral care and other spiritual services for patients who request them’”.
The study continues, “The American College of Physicians convened an end-of-life consensus panel that concluded that physicians should extend their care for those with serious medical illness by attention to psychosocial, existential, or spiritual suffering. In addition, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) […] listed the essential attributes of physicians. The first attribute is that physicians should be altruistic: ‘Physicians must be compassionate and empathic in caring for patients.… In all of their interactions with patients, they must seek to understand the meaning of the patients’ stories in the context of the patients’ beliefs and family and cultural values.… They must continue to care for dying patients even when disease-specific therapy is no longer available or desired’”.
The spiritual circumstance on the coronavirus patients spiritual rights
The severe isolation imposed by the pandemic presents serious concerns for family, religious service providers and bioethicists, an issue we have addressed in an article entitled “Dying alone. Unprecedented moral implications, another unique feature of the current pandemic.” To this end, Christ Medicus American Foundation and the National Catholics Bioethics Center (NCBC) have launched the Health Care Civil Rights Task Force, “to help defend and protect the dignity and civil rights of the human person in health care. In the words of Justice Alito, ‘[t]he pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty’. At a time when our religious freedom, civil rights, and civil liberties are being challenged in intensely personal ways […].”
Current situation: Coronavirus patients spiritual rights are frequently forgotten
NCBC’s Doctor Josef Zalot told CNA agency (read HERE), “Strict hospital visitation policies during the pandemic have received repeated attention from the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, which has intervened in several cases for patients to have access to clergy and for disabled patients to have access to an advocate.”
In the Health Care Civil Rights Task Force statement on civil rights in health care mentioned above, the coalition also called for “preservation of access to the sacraments for the faithful and opposition to health care rationing based on a ‘value’ of one’s life”, and warned that “state and local COVID restrictions reflect a ‘chasm’ where ‘[t]he spiritual is increasingly being forgotten, ignored, and trampled,’ as churches are closed by public orders and the sacraments are denied to COVID patients.”
Our Observatory subscribes to the statement of this new institution and agrees that, in many cases in Spain, the same restrictions have been applied, and have affected patients in many hospitals.