An ethical framework for hospital visitor restrictions in the COVID-19 pandemic

Authors (alphabetical):

Dr Christopher Chew, Prof Clare Delany, Prof Lynn Gillam, Dr Danielle Ko, Prof John Massie, Dr Rosalind McDougall

In order to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, health care institutions around the world have implemented visitor restriction policies. As with other public health policy responses to COVID-19, these policies prioritise maximising health outcomes for the entire community over individual patient and family needs.

Although some limitations on visitors, such as fixed visiting hours, are accepted practice, the extent of these new restrictions is unprecedented. As visitors can play an important and beneficial role in supporting patients through their healthcare journey, restricting visitors has the potential to cause significant harm.

This document outlines ethical considerations relevant to decision-making about visitation during the COVID-19 pandemic. It aims to support clinicians and hospital leadership when they have some discretion to make decisions about visitor restrictions.

The first part of the document articulates the key ethical considerations involved

in restricting visitors. The second part outlines the features of an ethical visitor restriction policy. The third part sets out a structure for decision-making in situations where clinicians or organisational decision-makers are considering individual visitation requests.

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Please view: Ethical framework for hospital visitor restrictions

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Dr Ros McDougall