Covid-19 is denying persons a death surrounded by loved ones.
When we know death is inevitable, most of us want to die at home. Should those dying of Covid-19 have that choice?
What follows is not an endorsement:
Charles Camosy, a professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University, makes the case that hospice should be an option for those dying of Covid-19:
It is now clear that ventilators can save the lives of only a minority of patients with advanced cases of the disease. At the same time we are beginning to absorb how often those who die spend their last moments isolated in ICUs, with no family to tell them they are loved and no religious presence to administer last rites or pray with them.
Dying of severe respiratory disease can be a grim experience without the proper care. Happily, home hospice staff are practiced at helping patients die well in these situations. These skilled practitioners are trained to use the right amount of morphine and concentrated oxygen to relieve the need to gasp for air, while also employing muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety medications to keep the patient at ease.
Protections can be implemented for families who consider the admittedly higher risk worth it. “Suppose the risk level is raised a small percentage,” said Banach [CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Association]. “That has to be weighed against the very good chance of dropping a loved one off at the hospital and their dying without being able to say goodbye. That’s a very personal decision that family members ought to be able to make.”
Simply put, there are values that trump the singular goal of lowering COVID-19 infection rates. One of those is the compassion to accompany loved ones as they pass away and provide them with clergy.