Dr. Kristin Collier wrote an interesting article as a follow-up and referenced the original discussion. I was inspired after the original virtual gathering, and reading this article renewed my zeal for getting back to visiting people in the hospitals and nursing homes.
I invite you to read the article before finishing my post.
I can understand the initial knee-jerk reaction at the beginning of the pandemic. However, we are now ten months into this crisis and protocols at the hospitals with which I am familiar have changed very little in regard to the unreasonable and harmful restrictions for visitors. It is understandable why someone would just choose to die at home rather than seek treatment at a hospital and risk being alone and isolated up until the point of death.
After ten months, have we not yet realized the mental and emotional trauma we have inflicted on families by the oppressive measures put in place for restricting visitors? After reading Dr. Collier's article, it has made me reflect upon some serious issues within the Catholic hospital networks. The leadership team at a Catholic hospital has not just been educated in medical expertise; they have been formed in Christian values. Most Catholic hospitals have a "Mission Effectiveness Office" of some kind or another. It may have another name, but somewhere in the institution there should be people with knowledge of moral theology and ethics, pastoral care, and community service. Where has this team been for the last ten months?
As a deacon, I have not been allowed to visit people in the hospital. Some priests have told me they have struggled to gain access as well. It seems they are allowed to come in and anoint someone when they are approaching death. Wow! All the years since Vatican II we have been trying to get people to look upon the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick as a healing sacrament. It is not just "Extreme Unction" or the "Last Rites". Thanks to COVID, are we back to "Last Rites"?
Has the cure has been worse than the illness? We will never know the full impact of COVID on our physical and mental health. Statistics will eventually tell part of the story, but even that story will have the potential of being manipulated to fit a preconceived narrative.
In the past ten months I have had people accuse me of wanting people to die because of my stance on COVID. I know the illness can be bad. I have had family members hospitalized because of COVID. However, I have also walked with people who have struggled because a loved one was in the hospital and they could not visit. Several families I know have buried loved ones due to suicide. It is a fine line to walk for the medical community. Keeping people as safe as possible while in a hospital is a laudable goal. Unfortunately, there has been too little consideration given to the psychological and emotional trauma being imposed by overzealous visitor restrictions.
I want to thank Dr. Kristin Collier and Dr. Wes Ely for at least opening up the discussion to consider alternatives to procedures currently in place at many hospitals across the country. Their knowledge and wisdom should be welcomed by the wider medical community.
May the Divine Physician bring us healing and peace!