No one should have to die alone. But that’s what’s happening across the United States. Because of the fear of coronavirus, American hospitals are instituting policies that separate patients from their loved ones.
Across the country, dads are being barred from birthing rooms, family members are told they may not be by the side of a loved one who needs surgery, and people of all ages, including our seniors, are dying alone. Even the parents of minors who need hospitalization are being left at the door, informed that they cannot be by their child’s side.
And when a mom tests positive for COVID-19? Whether she has symptoms or not, some hospitals are even taking her newborn baby away from her.
In an article in USA Today, a nurse with over a decade of experience, Tawny Buettner, R.N., argues that the practice of separating loved ones during birth and death—the two most sacred times in a person’s life—is “causing devastating harm.”
Hospitals make mistakes, all the time (we all do)
When my cousin was 18 years old he had a growth on his leg. Even though it wasn’t cancer, his doctor determined that the tumor needed to be removed. His mom, my aunt, flew to California to be by his side.
The nurses came in to prep him for the surgery. But they shaved the wrong leg.
“Oh my god, Jenny,” my aunt told me later. “They would have operated on the wrong leg!”
As Buettner explains in the article:
It’s a little-known fact that at the hospital, doctors and nurses rely on the patients’ loved ones to be their extra eyes, ears and hands. They advocate for their loved ones. They are present when medical decisions are being made because many of these patients are in vulnerable positions due to compromised health. Having a vigilant loved one at a patient’s bedside helps the patient receive the very best care.”
Several studies have shown that medical errors are a leading cause of death in the United States. We all make mistakes. Every day in every hospital in America a medical professional does something wrong: giving an incorrect dose of a medicine, for example. Nurses work 12 hour shifts and by hour 11 they are understandably tired. Patients can wait hours for doctors to arrive.
No one should be alone in the hospital, or die alone
Incapacitated patients cannot advocate for themselves. They need family members and other loved ones to be their eyes and ears.
We’ve become so fearful of theoretical problems that may arise from the coronavirus that hospitals have instituted policies that are causing actual problems to thousands of hospitalized Americans every single day.
Yes to evidence-based safety protocols, including temperature checks, thorough hand washing, and personal protective gear. But no to separating hospitalized patients from their loved ones.
No one should have to die alone.