Dealing with death and bereavement in the context of the Covid-19 Pandemic will present significant challenges for at least the next three months. The current situation does not allow for families andbcommunities to be involved in the process of death in ways in which they would normally hope or expect to be. In addition, mortality rates will disproportionately affect vulnerable households. The government has identified the following communities as being at increased risk: single parent households; multi-generational Black and Minority Ethnic groups; men without degrees in lone households and/or in precarious work; small family business owners in their 50s; and elderlyhouseholds. Our study focused on these groups. This report presents a summary of findings and key recommendations by a team of anthropologists from the London School of Economics who conducted a public survey and 58 cross-community interviews between 3 and 9 April 2020. It explores ways to prepare these communities and households for impending deaths with communications and policy support. More information on the research methodology, data protection and ethical procedures is available in Appendix 1. A summary of relevant existing research can be found in Appendix 2. A list of key contacts across communities for consultation is available on request. Research was focused on “what a good death looks like” for people across all faiths and for vulnerable groups. It examined how communities were already adapting how they dealt with processes of dying, burials, funerals and bereavement during the pandemic, and responding to new government regulations. It specifically focused on five transitions in the process of death, and what consultation processes, policies and communications strategies could be mobilised to support communities through these phases.
Ischaemic heart disease (IHD), in particular acute coronary syndrome (ACS), comprising ST-elevation myocardial infarction, non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction and unstable angina, is the leading cause of death worldwide. Age is a major predictor of adverse outcome following ACS. COVID-19 infection seems to escalate the risk in older patients with heart disease. Increasing odds of in-hospital death is associated with older age following COVID-19 infection. Importantly, it seems older patients with comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), in particular IHD, diabetes and hypertension, are at the highest risk of mortality following COVID-19 infection. The evidence is sparse on the optimal care of older patients with ACS with lack of robust randomised controlled trials. In this setting, with the serious threat imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of rapidly evolving knowledge with much unknown, it is important to weigh the risks and benefits of treatment strategies offered to older patients. In cases where risks outweigh the benefits, it might not be an unreasonable option to treat such patients with a conservative or a palliative approach. Further evidence to elucidate whether invasive management is beneficial in older patients with ACS is required out-with the COVID-19 pandemic. Though it is hoped that the actual acute phase of COVID-19 infection will be short lived, it is vital that important clinical research is continued, given the long-term benefits of ongoing clinical research for patients with long-term conditions, including CVD. This review aimed to evaluate the challenges and the management strategies in the care of older patients presenting with ACS in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 28, 2020, the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) opened investigations into recently released critical care crisis triage protocols. Disability rights advocates are urging Congress to prohibit crisis triage based on “anticipated or demonstrated resource-intensity needs, the relative survival probabilities of patients deemed likely to benefit from medical treatment, and assessments of pre- or post-treatment quality of life.”
There is a concern that as a result of COVID-19 there will be a shortage of ventilators for patients requiring respiratory support. This concern has resulted in significant debate about whether it is appropriate to withdraw ventilation from one patient in order to provide it to another patient who may benefit more. The current advice available to doctors appears to be inconsistent, with some suggesting withdrawal of treatment is more serious than withholding, while others suggest that this distinction should not be made. We argue that there is no ethically relevant difference between withdrawing and withholding treatment and that suggesting otherwise may have problematic consequences. If doctors are discouraged from withdrawing treatment, concern about a future shortage may make them reluctant to provide ventilation to patients who are unlikely to have a successful outcome. This may result in underutilisation of available resources. A national policy is urgently required to provide doctors with guidance about how patients should be prioritised to ensure the maximum benefit is derived from limited resources.
This case report describes a pediatric hospice provider in Scotland and their experience implementing a telehospice program in response to COVID-19. Children's Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) is the only provider of pediatric hospice care in the entire of Scotland, and we describe their experience offering pediatric telehospice. CHAS had strategically planned to implement telehospice, but COVID-19 accelerated the process. The organization evaluated its pediatric clinical and wrap-around hospice services and rapidly migrated them to a virtual environment. They creatively added new services to meet the unique needs of the entire family, who were caring for a child at end of life during COVID-19. CHAS's experience highlights the planning and implementing processes of telehospice with key lessons learned, while acknowledging the challenges inherent in using technology to deliver hospice care.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its sequelae have created scenarios of scarce medical resources, leading to the prospect that healthcare systems have faced or will face difficult decisions about triage, allocation and reallocation. These decisions should be guided by ethical principles and values, should not be made before crisis standards have been declared by authorities, and, in most cases, will not be made by bedside clinicians. Do not attempt resuscitation (DNAR) and withholding and withdrawing decisions should be made according to standard determination of medical appropriateness and futility, but there are unique considerations during a pandemic. Transparent and clear communication is crucial, coupled with dedication to provide the best possible care to patients, including palliative care. As medical knowledge about COVID-19 grows, more will be known about prognostic factors that can guide these difficult decisions.
Deaths due to COVID-19 are associated with risk factors which can lead to prolonged grief disorder, post-traumatic stress and other poor bereavement outcomes among relatives, as well as moral injury and distress in frontline staff. Here we review relevant research evidence, and provide evidence-based recommendations and resources for hospital clinicians to mitigate poor bereavement outcomes and support staff. For relatives, bereavement risk factors include dying in an intensive care unit, severe breathlessness, patient isolation or restricted access, significant patient and family emotional distress, and disruption to relatives' social support networks. Recommendations include advance care planning; proactive, sensitive and regular communication with family members alongside accurate information provision; enabling family members to say goodbye in person where possible; supporting virtual communication; providing excellent symptom management and emotional and spiritual support; and providing and/or sign-posting to bereavement services. To mitigate effects of this emotionally challenging work on staff, we recommend an organisational and systemic approach which includes access to informal and professional support.
The COVID-19 pandemic requires healthcare teams to rethink how they can continue to provide high quality care for all patients, whether they are suffering from a COVID-19 infection or other diseases with clinical uncertainty. Although the number of cases of COVID-19 in Jordan remains relatively low compared to many other countries, our team introduced significant changes to team operations early, with the aim of protecting patients, families and healthcare staff from COVID-19 infections, while preparing to respond to the needs of patients suffering from severe COVID-19 infections. This paper describes the changes made to our ‘Do not resuscitate' (DNR) policy for the duration of the pandemic.
The daughter of a man who successfully fought to establish that patients have a right to be consulted on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) has launched a High Court challenge against Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary for England.
Kate Masters has written a letter before action to Hancock after news reports suggested that blanket bans on CPR were being imposed during the covid-19 pandemic.
In the letter, she called on Hancock to give an emergency direction to all healthcare professionals providing that “do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation” (DNACPR) orders must not be imposed unless the patient or family have been consulted and certain information provided.
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COVID-19 continues to impact older adults disproportionately, from severe illness and hospitalization to increased mortality risk. Concurrently, concerns about potential shortages of healthcare professionals and health supplies to address these needs have focused attention on how resources are ultimately allocated and used. Some strategies misguidedly use age as an arbitrary criterion, which inappropriately disfavors older adults. This statement represents the official policy position of the American Geriatrics Society (AGS). It is intended to inform stakeholders including hospitals, health systems, and policymakers about ethical considerations to consider when developing strategies for allocating scarce resources during an emergency involving older adults. Members of the AGS Ethics Committee collaborated with interprofessional experts in ethics, law, nursing, and medicine (including geriatrics, palliative care, emergency medicine, and pulmonology/critical care) to conduct a structured literature review and examine relevant reports. The resulting recommendations defend a particular view of distributive justice that maximizes relevant clinical factors and de-emphasizes or eliminates factors placing arbitrary, disproportionate weight on advanced age. The AGS positions include: (1) avoiding age per se as a means for excluding anyone from care; (2) assessing comorbidities and considering the disparate impact of social determinants of health; (3) encouraging decision makers to focus primarily on potential short-term (not long-term) outcomes; (4) avoiding ancillary criteria such as "life-years saved" and "long-term predicted life expectancy" that might disadvantage older people; (5) forming and staffing triage committees tasked with allocating scarce resources; (6) developing institutional resource allocation strategies that are transparent and applied uniformly; and (7) facilitating appropriate advance care planning. The statement includes recommendations that should be immediately implemented to address resource allocation strategies during COVID-19, aligning with AGS positions. The statement also includes recommendations for post-pandemic review. Such review would support revised strategies to ensure that governments and institutions have equitable emergency resource allocation strategies, avoid future discriminatory language and practice, and have appropriate guidance to develop national frameworks for emergent resource allocation decisions.
The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has affected millions of people in over 180 territories, causing a significant impact on healthcare systems globally. Older adults, as well as people living with cancer, appear to be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 related morbidity and mortality, which means that older adults with cancer are an especially high-risk population. This has led to significant changes in the way geriatric oncologists provide care to older patients, including the implementation of novel methods for clinical visits, interruptions or delays in procedures, and modification of therapeutic strategies, both in the curative and palliative settings. In this manuscript, we provide a global overview of the perspectives of geriatric oncology providers from countries across Europe, America, and Asia, regarding the adaptive strategies utilized to continue providing high quality care for older patients with cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through these perspectives, we attempt to show that, although each country and setting has specific issues, we all face similar challenges when providing care for our older patients with cancer during these difficult times.
Symptom management and end-of-life care are core skills for all physicians, although in ordinary times many anesthesiologists have fewer occasions to use these skills. The current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has caused significant mortality over a short time and has necessitated an increase in provision of both critical care and palliative care. For anesthesiologists deployed to units caring for patients with COVID-19, this narrative review provides guidance on conducting goals of care discussions, withdrawing life-sustaining measures, and managing distressing symptoms.
In view of the exceptional public health situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a consensus work has been promoted from the ethics group of the Spanish Society of Intensive, Critical Medicine and Coronary Units (SEMICYUC), with the objective of finding some answers from ethics to the crossroads between the increase of people with intensive care needs and the effective availability of means. In a very short period, the medical practice framework has been changed to a 'catastrophe medicine' scenario, with the consequent change in the decision-making parameters. In this context, the allocation of resources or the prioritization of treatment become crucial elements, and it is important to have an ethical reference framework to be able to make the necessary clinical decisions. For this, a process of narrative review of the evidence has been carried out, followed by a unsystematic consensus of experts, which has resulted in both the publication of a position paper and recommendations from SEMICYUC itself, and the consensus between 18 scientific societies and 5 institutes/chairs of bioethics and palliative care of a framework document of reference for general ethical recommendations in this context of crisis.
Early on, geriatricians in Israel viewed with increasing alarm the spread of COVID-19. It was clear that this viral disease exhibited a clear predilection for and danger to older persons. Informal contacts began with senior officials from the country's Ministry of Health, the Israel Medical Association and the country's largest Health Fund; this in order to plan an approach to the possible coming storm. A group was formed, comprising three senior geriatricians, a former dean, palliative care specialist and a lawyer/ethicist. The members made every effort to ensure that its recommendations would be practical while at the same time taking into account the tenets of medical ethics. The committee's main task was to think through a workable approach were ICU/ventilator resources be far outstripped by those requiring such care. Recommendations included the approach to older persons both in the community and long term care institutions, a triage instrument and palliative care. Patient autonomy was emphasized with a strong recommendation for people of all ages to update their advance directives or if they did not have any, to quickly draw them up. Considering the value of distributive justice, with respect to triage, a "soft utilitarian" approach was advocated with the main criteria being function and co-morbidity. While chronological age was rejected as a sole criterion, in the case of an overwhelming crisis, "biological age" would enter into the triage considerations; but only in the case of distinguishing between people with equal non-age related deficits. The guideline emphasized that no matter what, in the spirit of beneficence, anyone who fell ill must receive active palliative care throughout the course of a COVD-19 infection but especially at the end of life. Furthermore, in the spirit of non-maleficence, the very frail, old-old and severely demented would be actively protected from dying on ventilation.
After covid-19 crisis in Italy, serious restrictions have been introduced for relatives, with limitations or prohibitions on hospital visits. To partially overcome these issues "WhatsApp" has been adopted to get family members to participate in clinical rounds. Family members of patients admitted to the acute palliative care unit and hospice were screened for a period of 2 weeks. Four formal questions were posed: 1) Are you happy to virtually attend the clinical round? 2) Are you happy with the information gained in this occasion? 3) Do you think that your loved one was happy to see you during the clinical rounds? 4) This technology may substitute your presence during the clinical rounds? The scores were 0=no, 1=a little bit, 2=much, 3=very much. Relatives were free to comment about these points. Sixteen of 25 screened family members were interviewed. Most family members had a good impression, providing scores of 2 or 3 for the first three items. However, the real presence bedside (forth question) was considered irreplaceable. They perceived that their loved one, when admitted to hospice, had to say good-bye before dying.
Accurate prognostication is challenging in the setting of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, due to rapidly changing data, studies that are not generalizable and lack of morbidity and functional outcomes in survivors. To provide meaningful guidance to patients, existing mortality data must be considered and appropriately applied. While most people infected with SARS-CoV-2 will recover, mortality increases with age and co-morbidity in those who develop severe illness.
Providing quality end-of-life care for older peopleis one of our biggest challenges in this newCOVID-19 era. Advanced age, because of its asso-ciation with a range of physical comorbidities, is associated with greater mortality with COVID-19. Specifically, case fatality rates in the 70+age group range from 8.6% to 13.4% compared with 0.0026–0.3% in those under 45 (Ruan,2020;Zhouet al.,2020). However, vulnerability is not con-ferred by physiological factors alone, but addition-ally by psychosocial factors such as ageism and ethical considerations such as distributive justice (Stirling,2020;Truoget al.,2020). Those who are at high risk for COVID-19 are the same patients we take care of in geriatric psychiatry, geriatrics,nursing home, hospice, and palliative care, that is,older, ill, frail, cognitively impaired, at high risk of delirium with mental and physical comorbidities (van den Brinket al.,2017). An acute COVID infection may be, as Ballentine (2020) suggested,“what collapses the house of cards” for our vulnerable patients.
COVID-19 continues to impact older adults disproportionately with respect to serious consequences ranging from severe illness and hospitalization to increased mortality risk. Concurrently, concerns about potential shortages of healthcare professionals and health supplies to address these issues have focused attention on how these resources are ultimately allocated and used. Some strategies, for example, misguidedly use age as an arbitrary criterion, which disfavors older adults in resource allocation decisions. This is a companion manuscript to the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) position statement, "Resource Allocation Strategies and Age-Related Considerations in the COVID-19 Era and Beyond." It is intended to inform stakeholders including hospitals, health systems, and policymakers about ethical considerations that should be considered when developing strategies for allocation of scarce resources during an emergency involving older adults. This review presents the legal and ethical background for the position statement and discusses the following issues that informed the development of the AGS positions: (1) age as a determining factor; (2) age as a tiebreaker; (3) criteria with a differential impact on older adults; (4) individual choices and advance directives; (5) racial/ethnic disparities and resource allocation; and (6) scoring systems and their impact on older adults. It also considers the role of advance directives as expressions of individual preferences in pandemics.