A Forgotten Crown of Glory: The Elderly and COVID-19

The nursing home where I worked this past summer was fortunate. The long-term care facility shielded its residents from the chaos of the pandemic unfolding outside and managed to avoid any positive COVID-19 cases among its residents and staff for the summer. Of course, this came at a cost. Visitors were barred, activities were canceled, and residents were largely made to stay in their rooms. Even though residents received the same medical care as before—physicians still inspected wounds and nurses continued to pass medications—their mental health and overall wellbeing noticeably diminished. No longer able to enjoy bingo or attend religious services, they sat in their rooms watching TV, becoming more confused by the day.

Other nursing homes have encountered greater medically-related difficulties. By October of 2020, nearly 50% of COVID-19 deaths occur in nursing homes, with Britain losing approximately 5% of its nursing home population to the virus. During those early months of the pandemic in the US, residents and employees of nursing homes accounted for 35% of COVID deaths in the country.  The elderly in general were afflicted by the disease at a disproportionate rate, and this knowledge caused many to shelter in their homes uncertain about when they might be able to leave.

Triage in a Pandemic: Equity, Utility, or Both?

In terms of the setting of priorities for resource allocation, two general principles are important. These are equity and utility. Based on these two concepts, there are two historically discrete models for triage of limited resources. These are the French egalitarian model based on equity and the British military model based on utility. Modern paramedic and emergency room care in multiple casualty situations favors the triage model based on utility. Modern ICU care favors the triage model based on equity. There are issues to be addressed in both triage responses. In a pandemic, both the utilitarian model and the equity model are active, and their applicability changes as the trajectory of the pandemic progresses.

Kindness and the Ethics of Physician-Assisted Suicide

In this paper I explain four features of kindness by examining how four artworks depict them: Giotto di Bondone’s painting of St. Francis of Assisi giving his robe to a beggar, the character Bishop Charles-Francois Myriel in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, the person Adam in William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, and the role of Sonya Semyonovna Marmeladov in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. These four examples describe kindness as supererogatory, altruistic, a belief about how the world ought to be, and the possibility of unction. With this understanding of kindness, I examine the most likely moral motives of the physician in physician-assisted suicide and find that the practice does not display the four characteristics of kindness but rather displays the emotion (though it may be sincere) of condescending pity towards the unfortunate people who deem their lives are devoid of the value to live.