Bioethics in Brief is a newsletter of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, committed to promoting clinical health care and health policy which is patient-centered, compassionate, and just. Opinions expressed in the newsletter are those of the authors and do not represent the position of the Center.
Can We Return to Normal?
In the post 9-11 world where we take off our shoes at the airport despite the lack of evidence that this is a good way to prevent terrorism, one has cause to worry that restrictions will have a way of becoming the new normal. When is it “safe” to repeal the visiting restrictions? Ought we repeal them as the current wave of infection tapers, or is it just easier to keep them in place? How much risk justifies worry? What about next flu season? Wouldn't it just be easier to go back to former ways of restricting visitors to a few short sessions a day,
so patients could rest, children wouldn't be in the way, and the staff could do their work?
Surely these former ways are not to be preferred. A “patients first” philosophy must have patient well-being firmly in mind. Across-the-board visiting restrictions of hours or subsets of visitors are ethically sound only insofar as they reflect good science and take a comprehensive look at well-being. If restrictions are necessary, higher staffing levels in the general acute care setting and greater efforts at communication with families are ethically required to maintain excellent care.
—K. Faber-Langendoen, MD