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Culling in the care homes? The right to die - if you haven’t already died of Covid

Culling in the care homes? The right to die - if you haven’t already died of Covid

After the disastrous effects of the Government’s earlier pandemic policy of sending untested patients to residential care,  the blanket issue of Do Not Resuscitate orders to be signed by the old and mentally vulnerable, and the terrible effects that a lack of human contact, especially on the mentally confused, leading to fears of many premature deaths,

it might be hoped that lessons were learned; however, it has emerged that ‘Covid-19 outbreaks in care homes have risen to almost 400 in a month’ as the Government has ‘failed to take action to stop the virus’s spread by roving agency workers’; having promised to end this practice, official statistics reveal that there were 397 such outbreaks in English care homes in the four weeks ending November 8 – ‘a 44 per cent rise on the 297 the previous month’ . In addition, some of the most vulnerable residents have been left without visitors for months, since ‘[u]under current rules, friends and family can often only see loved ones through “prison-style” screens’ through windows, while some care homes ‘only allow outdoor or drive-through visits, or none at all.’


The Government has now launched 20 pilot schemes in ‘areas with low levels of infections’ to allow ‘relatives of residents to have Covid tests so they can safely visit the vulnerable’; if successful, these ‘will be followed by a national roll-out next month, allowing families to reunite before Christmas’; however, the experiment has been introduced only after ‘a long campaign’ by elder-care charities (‘Government delays as care home cases rise’, Telegraph, November 16, 2020).


At the same time, approximately ‘25,000 elderly people with conditions like dementia have been left in limbo waiting to find out if crippling care bills of up to £100,000 a year will be funded by the state’, with thousands in danger of ‘being unfairly denied funding for their care after being caught in a “huge” lockdown backlog of applications’ (‘Vulnerable patients left in limbo over care bills funding’, Telegraph, November 16, 2020).


It seems that on this issue, as with so many others, the needs of the elderly have been sidelined in the ‘fight against Covid’ and the battle to ‘save our NHS’ – principally, it would seem, from them; even fears about roving care workers appear to have centred less on the risks posed to the care homes and more on the risk posed to the rest of the population from the care homes, since during the first Covid wave, ‘Government scientists repeatedly raised concerns that outbreaks within care homes were “seeding” infections across whole communities.’


The Covid pandemic has been cited to restrict countless areas of public life and private activities, including church services; however, recently, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that a terminally ill woman could travel to Switzerland to end her life – for compassionate reasons, naturally.


How long will it be before someone brings a legal challenge arguing that those care home residents physically unable to travel are being denied this ‘choice’ – that they should be allowed to die in the comfort of their own care homes? Perhaps their families will be allowed to watch through a glass screen, ‘for their own safety’ - providing, of course, the old person has not already died of Covid.