Healthcare workers in the Argentine capital will be instructed to allow family members to maintain a bedside vigil for dying COVID-19 patients, after legislators approved a new law on Thursday.
The move by the Buenos Aires city council is seen as a breakthrough in the care of dying coronavirus patients in the capital, which has borne the brunt of Argentina’s 8,000-plus deaths from the disease.
Around the world, hospitals have prohibited heartbroken families from visiting terminally ill COVID-19 patients because of the risk of contagion.
“In much of the world, the coronavirus has been defined as the disease of loneliness. There are many cases where people said their loved ones died because they felt alone,” said city congressman Facundo Del Gaiso, who introduced the bill approved unanimously by the council.
The measure allows one family member, between the ages of 18 and 60, to keep vigil with the dying patient, with the exception of pregnant women or people with underlying medical conditions.
“We are seeking to bring patients closer to their loved ones and provide the necessary means for a dignified farewell, without putting life at risk,” Congresswoman Maria Luisa Gonzalez Estevarena said.
Local health centres will be instructed to provide the relative with full protective medical gear, as well as psychological care.
“We believe that at this stage of the pandemic, we must provide every support to protocols that allow a dignified death, which is a death without pain, in company, a humanised death,” said Santiago Levin, president of the Association of Argentine Psychiatrists.
Similar projects are being studied by about a dozen other local authorities in Argentina.
Argentina on Wednesday registered more than 10,000 new COVID-19 infections in 24 hours.
With a population of 44 million, the country has so far registered more than 370,000 cases.