The COVID-19 pandemic poses numerous – and substantial – ethical challenges to health and healthcare. Debate continues about whether there is adequate protective equipment, testing and monitoring, and about when a vaccine might become available and social restrictions might be lifted. The thorny dilemmas posed by triage and resource allocation also attract considerable attention, particularly access to intensive care resources, should demand outstrip supply.
But the “COVID fog” clouds more than the intensive care unit. The provision and uptake of non-COVID related treatment is declining, due to the de-prioritisation of some services and interventions, alongside non-COVID patients’ fears of contracting the virus; difficult conversations are being held in suboptimal circumstances; and final farewells and death rituals have been disrupted. Healthcare personnel, meanwhile, are facing moral distress and, for some, difficulties arising from undertaking new roles in unfamiliar settings.
The current outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 has and continues to put huge pressure on intensive care units (ICUs) worldwide. Many patients with COVID-19 require some form of respiratory support and often have prolonged ICU stays, which results in a critical shortage of ICU beds. It is therefore not always physically possible to treat all the patients who require intensive care, raising major ethical dilemmas related to which patients should benefit from the limited resources and which should not. Here we consider some of the approaches to the acute shortages seen during this and other epidemics, including some guidelines for triaging ICU admissions and treatments.
What does it mean to be vulnerable? Vulnerable groups of people are those that are disproportionally exposed to risk, but who is included in these groups can change dynamically. A person not considered vulnerable at the outset of a pandemic can become vulnerable depending on the policy response. The risks of sudden loss of income or access to social support have consequences that are difficult to estimate and constitute a challenge in identifying all those who might become vulnerable. Certainly, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, vulnerable groups are not only elderly people, those with ill health and comorbidities, or homeless or underhoused people, but also people from a gradient of socioeconomic groups that might struggle to cope financially, mentally, or physically with the crisis.
We read with interest the Editorial about redefining vulnerability in the era of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The Editors recognise underserved and marginalised populations enduring the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the category of vulnerable individuals or groups is not fixed but evolves in response to policies that might create or reinforce vulnerability. When we ask what being vulnerable means, are we also creating the spaces needed to question what it means to be made vulnerable?
Doctors, nurses, and family caregivers worldwide are facing tough decisions concerning the supply and administration of medications to manage symptoms when patients are dying from covid-19 or other conditions in the community or care homes. Proposed changes in practice aimed at ensuring adequate end-of-life symptom control need careful consideration alongside appropriate training and support.
Updated UK advice, including NICE rapid guidance on managing covid-19 symptoms in the community, reiterates the importance of prescribing medications in advance of need for pain, nausea and vomiting, agitation, and respiratory secretions. These drugs may be administered if needed by visiting doctors or nurses, as is already well established in some countries. However, this practice is being overhauled radically in response to the pandemic.
Family support is more, not less, important during crisis. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining public safety necessitates restricting the physical presence of families for hospitalized patients. In response, health systems must rapidly adapt family-centric procedures and tools to circumvent restrictions on physical presence. Strategies for maintaining family integrity must acknowledge clinicians’ limited time and attention to devote to learning new skills. Internet-based solutions can facilitate the routine, predictable, and structured communication which is central to family-centered care. But the reliance on technology may compromise patient privacy and exacerbate racial, socioeconomic, and geographic disparities for populations that lack access to reliable internet access, devices or technological literacy. We provide a toolbox of strategies for supporting family-centered inpatient care during physical distancing responsive to the current clinical climate. Innovations in the implementation of family involvement during hospitalizations may lead to long-term progress in the delivery of family-centered care.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has brought a tsunami of suffering that is devastating even well resourced countries. The disease has wreaked havoc on health systems and generated immense losses for families, communities, and economies, in addition to the growing death toll. Patients, caregivers, health-care providers, and health systems can benefit from the extensive knowledge of the palliative care community and by taking heed of long-standing admonitions to improve access to essential medicines, particularly opioids for the relief of breathlessness and pain.
During an epidemic, almost all healthcare facilities restrict the visiting of patients to prevent disease transmission. For hospices with terminally ill patients, the trade-off between compassion and infection control becomes a difficult decision. This study aimed to survey the changes in visiting policy for all 76 hospice wards in Taiwan during the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The altered visiting policies were assessed by the number of visitors per patient allowed at one time, the daily number of visiting slots, the number of hours open daily, and requisites for hospice ward entry. The differences in visiting policies between hospice wards and ordinary wards were also investigated. Data were collected by reviewing the official website of each hospital and were supplemented by phone calls in cases where no information was posted on the website. One quarter (n = 20) of hospice wards had different visiting policies to those of ordinary wards in the same hospital. Only one hospice ward operated an open policy, and in contrast, nine (11.8%) stopped visits entirely. Among the 67 hospice wards that allowed visiting, at most, two visitors at one time per patient were allowed in 46 (68.6%), one visiting time daily was allowed in 32 (47.8%), one hour of visiting per day was allowed in 29 (43.3%), and checking of identity and travel history was carried out in 12 wards (17.9%). During the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly all hospice wards in Taiwan changed their visiting policies, but the degree of restriction varied. Further studies could measure the impacts of visiting policy changes on patients and healthcare professionals.
Dr. Wakam: I’m 5 hours into my ICU shift at a community hospital in Detroit when the results of another arterial blood gas return. My patient has been hospitalized for 3 days and is Covid-19–positive. Over the past 12 hours, his treatment has progressed from intubation, to prone positioning on 100% fractional inspired oxygen, to medically induced paralysis, and finally to bilevel ventilation. The results from the arterial blood gas are dismal: pH 7.19, pCO2 70.1, pO2 63.7, HCO3 26.0. He has already experienced episodes of profound hypoxia when we try to rotate him into a supine position, and his heart has begun to show signs of strain, with periods of atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response and nonsustained runs of ventricular tachycardia. A request to transfer the patient for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is denied. It’s 11 p.m., and I’m worried that my patient won’t survive until morning.
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Palliative care services are under-resourced at the best of times. The 2017 Lancet Commission on Palliative Care and Pain Relief described the widespread lack of access to inexpensive and effective interventions as a travesty of justice. And these are not the best of times. As health systems become strained under COVID-19, providing safe and effective palliative care, including end-of-life care, becomes especially vital and especially difficult.
As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic intensifies, shortages of ventilators have occurred in Italy and are likely imminent in parts of the US. In ordinary clinical circumstances, all patients in need of
mechanical ventilation because of potentially-reversible conditions receive it, unless they or their surrogates decline. However, there are mounting concerns in many countries that this will not be possible and that patients
who otherwise would likely survive if they received ventilator support will die because no ventilator is available. In this type of public health emergency, the ethical obligation of physicians to prioritize the well-being of individual
patients may be overridden by public health policies that prioritize doing the greatest good for the greatest number of patients.These circumstances raise a critical question: when demand for ventilators and other intensive
treatments far outstrips the supply, what criteria should guide these rationing decisions?
The novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is challenging health care systems worldwide and raising important ethical issues, especially regarding the potential need for rationing health care in the context of scarce resources and crisis capacity. Even if capacity to provide care is sufficient, one priority should be addressing goals of care in the setting of acute life threatening illness, especially for patients with chronic, life-limiting disease.
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BACKGROUND: Palliative nursing care provides the best possible quality of life (QoL) for patients who face life-threatening conditions, such as breast cancer, and their families. It seems that coping with breast cancer can affect couples' QoL. Hence, this study aimed to assess the potential role of ways of coping (WOC) in QoL among husbands of women with breast cancer.
METHOD: In this cross-sectional study, 150 men whose wives were affected by non-metastatic breast cancer and were at least 4 months post-diagnosis, were recruited. The Persian version of the WOC questionnaire (WOCQ) and the World Health Organization's QoL brief questionnaire (WHOQoL-BREF) were used to measure WOC and QoL. ThePearson correlation test was applied to assess bivariate correlation of the variables.
FINDINGS: A significant direct correlation was found between the total WHOQoL-BREF score and all subscales of WHOQ, except escape-avoidance coping (r=-0.017, P=0.830). Most dimensions of the WHOQoL-BREF and WOCQ subscales were correlated significantly and directly. Nevertheless, escape-avoidance coping had a significant indirect correlation with the physical dimension of WHOQoL-BREF (r=-0.220, P=0.007).
CONCLUSION: Findings indicated a need for coping-based interventions in palliative nursing to improve QoL in husbands of women with breast cancer.
Anticipatory grief is a concept commonly used by researchers and clinicians when talking about the experience before the death of a loved one. This article offers a critical perspective on the disciplinary, theoretical and philosophical foundations of three distinct and frequently used conceptualisations of anticipatory grief: Lindemann's, Rando's and one derived from sociology. Lindemann's perspective conceived anticipatory grief as an inevitable component of the grieving experience in the situation of impending death. Rando's perspective views anticipatory grief as a multidimensional that facilitates post-mortem mourning. The third perspective, offered by sociologists, defines anticipatory grief as an experience highly influenced by the social context of the individual. This review explains how these different perspectives influence research and concludes with a reflection for potential future research.
Covid-19 is officially a pandemic. It is a novel infection with serious clinical manifestations, including death, and it has reached at least 124 countries and territories. Although the ultimate course and impact of Covid-19 are uncertain, it is not merely possible but likely that the disease will produce enough severe illness to overwhelm health care infrastructure. Emerging viral pandemics “can place extraordinary and sustained demands on public health and health systems and on providers of essential community services.” Such demands will create the need to ration medical equipment and interventions.
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The Covid-19 pandemic has led to severe shortages of many essential goods and services, from hand sanitizers and N-95 masks to ICU beds and ventilators. Although rationing is not unprecedented, never before has the American public been faced with the prospect of having to ration medical goods and services on this scale.
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By 2060, almost 25% (98 million) of the population is expected to be aged 65 or older. Health care professionals who provide hospice and palliative care are overtasked and demonstrate symptoms of burnout. Narrative medicine and mindfulness interventions create meaningful connections with patients, improve the delivery of patient-centered care, and enhance the health of the caregivers. In this pilot program, health care professionals in hospice and palliative care settings were invited to participate in a study to evaluate the impact of narrative medicine or mindfulness on measures of burnout and empathy. Participants completed baseline and 12-week post-intervention surveys of burnout and empathy, as well as weekly journals of their experience. Mean overall scores for depersonalization were significantly reduced at 12-week post-intervention. There were no significant changes in emotional exhaustion or empathy compared to baseline. This brief, weekly intervention may be beneficial for both patients and health care professionals in the hospice and palliative care setting.
"Nous ne pouvons pas le laisser partir comme ça…" : cette affirmation de la famille en deuil accompagne souvent la demande d’un rite d’obsèques avec ou sans référence à une tradition religieuse précise. En effet, derrière l’affirmation on peut entendre beaucoup plus que la simple exécution d’un devoir cultuel ou civil : il s’agit là d’une quête d’accomplissement, du sentiment d’avoir « tout fait » pour accompagner son proche. Avec cette intention, les membres de la famille du défunt expriment le souhait qu’un rite ait lieu et que, pour la plupart des cas, ce rite soit public, ouvert à tous ceux et celles qui désirent « rendre hommage » à la personne.
C’est à ce moment, à travers le caractère public du rite, que la dimension sociétale s’insère dans le processus du deuil : on réfléchit au nombre des participants, aux conditions logistiques, à une éventuelle rencontre familiale ou plus élargie après la cérémonie… Les mots qui annoncent le décès et les obsèques sont choisis avec soin et suivent des codes linguistiques souvent homogènes, même si les familles aiment ajouter un détail personnel qui singularise. Une démarche presque rituelle est déjà entamée.
De mon point de vue d’aumônier en hôpital public dans une métropole, j’ai pu observer une mutation dans la demande des familles : durant les dix dernières années le nombre de demandes de célébration religieuse s’est réduit de presque moitié, au profit de cérémonies dites « civiles » qui peuvent avoir lieu dans le service funéraire de l’hôpital ou dans d’autres centres funéraires, comme au cimetière (crématorium)…
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Background: Uncontrolled cancer pain is a significant problem in palliative medicine. Opioids are often first-line treatment that increase risks of analgesic tolerance and hyperalgesia. Topical ketamine with other adjuvant pain medications is an often-overlooked treatment, yet may be most effective in difficult-to-treat cancer pain.
Objective: We report a case series of hospice patients with uncontrolled cancer pain who were suboptimally treated with opioids and nerve blocks, whose symptoms responded to topical ketamine with other adjuvants. We review the pronociceptive properties of opioids and how topical multimodal treatment of cancer pain can be more effective than standard opioids, other topical adjuvant medications, and nerve blocks. We discuss the shortcomings of the World Health Organization (WHO) stepladder for the treatment of cancer pain and suggest an adjuvant treatment algorithm, directing physicians to appropriate adjuvant pain agents based on pain type and distinct receptor actions.
Design: This is a retrospective case series of patients who responded to topical multimodal pain treatment with implementation of findings into an addendum to the WHO stepladder.
Subjects: Subjects were from a case series of community-based hospice patients with previously uncontrolled cancer pain.
Measurement: Measurement was made by self-report of pain levels using the 10-point numeric pain rating scale.
Results: Patients' pain was controlled with topical adjuvant medications with return to previously lost function and prevention of otherwise escalating opioid dosing.
Conclusions: These patient cases reveal how ketamine-based topical treatment for cancer pain can be more effective than standard opioids, other topical adjuvant medications, and nerve blocks with no noted side effects and observed reduction in opioid consumption.