There was much talk on this morning’s news about exit strategies and when the lockdown might at least be eased – especially in view of the fact that Spain and Italy, two of countries worst affected by COVID-19, are looking to at least ease theirs. But many people wonder whether, if not too harsh, the lock down has failed to discriminate where maybe it should have done.
Jane Dean is an old friend of Foodsmatter and runs the Breath for Life Charity which provides hyperbaric oxygen therapy to help improve the lives of severely brain injured children and adults. Breath for Life was forced to close its doors at the end of March. In an interview in the Lancaster Guardian she said:
‘I had argued in the preceding weeks that breathing oxygen under pressure in a chamber was a safe place to be. I still hold that view. However, once government policy of social isolation particularly for the elderly came into play, we had no option but to close.
The government policy of blanket closures is currently denying millions of people their regular medical treatment. Those that do end up in hospital have no visitors and if suffering from a terminal disease will die alone deprived of the comfort a family member can give. This is cruelty 2020 style.
My elderly mother and husband have had ‘do not resuscitate’ forms in place for some time and under no circumstances do they want their lives extended by someone jumping on their chest wall or forcing oxygen into their already tired lungs. The average age of death from COVID 19 is 78/79 years with many in that age group already suffering from diagnosed pre-existing health problems, who may have, like my husband and mother, decided they have no wish to extend their life further.
I have been in health care for the last 50 years. At one time health professionals regarded death differently. If someone elderly and infirm was admitted to hospital with pneumonia, which was referred to ‘as the old man’s friend’, these patients were nursed with loving care and allowed to die without any of the modern day heroics. Not one doctor would recommend intubation and force an extended life in these circumstances. Patients would die peacefully with their family around them. Although times have changed and we are now better able and equipped to extend life, is this always the right course?
It is time for us all to wake up and remember death is a normal consequence of life. Our charity, like many others, enables children and adults with crippling health problems to live the life they choose, to enjoy life and to feel motivated to engage with others. Our charities need to reopen and re-open soon to help and support those who are really in need.’
In these circumstances, no government was ever going to get everything right – but re-enforcing Jane’s question as to whether the emergency created by COVID-19 really justifies the closure of so many other medical services, was a article in yesterday’s Guardian about the closure of all IVF fertility clinics on April 15th.
There are, obviously dangers in keeping such clinics open. They soak up resources and depending on where you are in your treatment, you may need daily blood tests and need to travel regularly to and from the clinic.
But, depending on how long the closure lasts, it may deny some families the chance ever to have children. As Dr Catherine Hill of the Progress Educational Trust said in the article:
‘You can’t rewind your biological clock. Time is of the essence when it comes to fertility treatment. For some people, this shutdown means they may never become parents. This was going to be their last chance and they’re not able to have it. That is deeply distressing and traumatising.’
It is hard in moments of crisis to nuance these decisions but in both of these cases, should discretion not have been given to the experts in question. So, in the case of the fertility clinics, for example, treatment could have been postponed for clients who were still young enough to have a good chance of accessing the treatment after the emergency was over? But could have been continued for those whom this might be last chance and for whom losing this chance could have a devastating effect on their future lives.
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