February 24, 2024

Covid-19 patients need not die alone

‘Dying alone, despite adhering to social distancing, should not be part of dying at all.’

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to drastic changes in how hospitals provide end-of-life care to patients and their families. With strict no-visiting limitations in place in an effort to stem contagion, patients have been dying alone.

In an editorial in the journal Intensive Care Medicine, researchers suggest an alternative pathway to patients dying alone in a hospital. They advocate that infection control, public health concerns, and family-centred care can coexist and urge reconsideration of adult family member presence at the bedside of patients during Covid-19.

As for virtual contact, the authors are sceptical: “Virtual and in-person visits are a false equivalent; virtual contact inherently limits the human connection that provides meaningful elements of end-of-life decision-making and care.”

“With careful screening, education, pragmatic psychosocially oriented facilitation, and teamwork, we can accommodate the very real needs of patients to not be alone, for families to fulfill their sense of responsibility and duty, and for staff to uphold the tenets of family-centred care,” writes Martha A. Q. Curley, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, one of the editorial's authors. “Dying alone, despite adhering to social distancing, should not be part of dying at all.”

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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