“The legal vagueness on visiting rights to the elderly and the sick can no longer continue”

Tribune. The waves of the Covid-19 pandemic follow one another, and each time the same tragedies: words of families prevented from seeing their loved ones hospitalized or residing in nursing homes, pains of bereaved deprived of the last moments with a loved one at the end of life , and sometimes even forbidden to say goodbye to the body of the deceased, the latter being placed in a coffin immediately.

At each “peak”, the same errors are repeated, calls for help continue to flow, from the citizen collective Hold your hand which campaigns for the inclusion of a right of visit to patients in the law, from the Vital collective composed of palliative care professionals and researchers, as well as the National Center for Palliative and End-of-Life Care.

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In addition to recalling the brutality of these dehumanizing health protocols certainly put in place to protect patients, families and caregivers from the dangers of Covid-19, we can today measure the deleterious and lasting impacts of these restrictions and visit bans:

– an impact on the mental health of patients, residents in nursing homes, and their families: depressive states and slip syndromes in hospitalized patients or elderly people institutionalized in nursing homes, traumatic bereavement for relatives. Far from being confined to individual and ephemeral problems, these harmful effects are on the way to becoming a real public health issue in the long term;

– an impact on care: on the caregiver side, discomfort and guilt for having had to organize this limitation or ban on visits and for having had to deal with the distress of families and their patients, feeling of being mistreated with vulnerable patients; on the patient side, families who delay hospital admission or prefer to organize home care to circumvent the risk of restricted visits;

– a social impact on citizens’ adherence to public health policies: society’s distrust of dehumanizing measures, the random and arbitrary nature of which leads to questioning the relevance and lower adherence to the health control measures implemented by the public policies.

A long-awaited regulation

Today, we don’t know what new argument to put forward when everything has been said: the Hold your hand and Vital collectives have alerted, the platforms have multiplied in the newspapers, various bodies (Council of State, Advisory Committee National Ethics, National Academy of Medicine, Covid-19 Scientific Council) have issued recommendations and opinions all in the same direction, that of authorizing visits by relatives to the elderly as well as to the sick.

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