(NOTE:   it is the petition site that is requesting a contribution, not Black is Back)

Photo Credit: Jae C. Hong/AP


In her latest book, “Carte Blanche, The Erosion of Informed Consent” medical ethicist, Harriet Washington, author of “Medical Apartheid,” writes about the dangers of the steady erosion of informed medical consent and exposes how this principle is in full effect during the pandemic.

She writes:

As hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons find it necessary to bar access by patient’s families and other visitors, those institutions are transformed into closed systems. Thus, non-consensual rationing takes place in secrecy, as families complain that treatment plans are obscured or withheld from them altogether.

When the pandemic first hit it was understood that such measures were necessary because of the shortage of PPE as the medical staff needed to be supplied first.   But once the shortage of PPE was over, modified family visitation should have been implemented immediately. Instead, we outrageously find that even after a year into the pandemic, family members are still being denied the right to visit loved ones hospitalized with COVID-19.   THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.

Moreover, elderly people who were in long term nursing facilities were denied physical contact from family members for over a year with devastating consequences. And although this restriction has recently been lifted, the Black Is Back Coalition’s Healthcare Working Group takes the position that we must never allow this to happen again.  We demand an end to barring family members from visiting healthcare facilities under any pretext.  A strong family support system is essential to the survival of patients in hospitals and eldercare facilities. Family members must be treated as essential personnel and at least one person of the family’s choosing should have visitation access to ensure that their loved ones needs are being met.

Separating hospital patients from their family members is INHUMANE, especially as it pertains to the Black community and other oppressed communities in a medical field in which racism is systemic. And while we maintain that no family should be prevented from visiting their loved ones in health care facilities, this current situation presents a crisis of the highest magnitude for disenfranchised communities. Study upon study shows that even during a pandemic these groups continue to be subjected to racism and discrimination from healthcare professionals. The biggest safeguard that we have to fight against medical abuses is having our family members in the hospitals and nursing facilities monitoring everything that is going on.

Some examples of medical abuse during the pandemic are as follows:

At the beginning of the pandemic, In Newark, NJ, which is a predominantly Black and Brown community, the decision was initially made to not perform CPR on people. In many communities across the country, doctors were less likely to refer Black patients for additional testing when they showed up with signs of infection. Reports abound of Black people being refused treatment by medical professionals and being sent back home. The drug Remdesivir, which is alleged to show promise for treating COVID-19, had been shown to be least likely given to Black patients when it was initially authorized for usage.. The CDC acknowledges that medical racism is one of the major factors that put Black people at a much higher risk of dying from COVID-19 and in their 2021 statement the American Medical Association states that its racist practices contributed to the racial injustices and inequities that harm patients today.

And yet in this climate the medical establishment responds by implementing one of it’s most tyrannical practices yet – which is preventing families from having access to their loved ones when they are diagnosed with COVID-19. This leaves hospitals and doctors absolute control to do to these patients whatever they want. Decisions are being made in complete secrecy, while patients are isolated from their family members. Many doctors take it upon themselves to make decisions to not resuscitate and to deny people adequate care. Many such decisions were made about the elderly and disabled and anyone else whom doctors deemed to be less valuable to society or to have a poor quality of life. Currently the Indigenous and Black communities have the highest COVID 19 death rates in the US at 258 and 179 per 100,000 people respectively.

There has never been a time in US history where oppressed communities have been able to trust the medical profession. The report “Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare” consistently documents the many ways in which racial disparities are rampant in this colonialist healthcare system. Black women are 3 – 4 times more likely to die from breast cancer than white woman; Black people are least likely to be given prescription pain medication in ER rooms than are white people and consistently receive inferior cardiac care, rehabilitative services, asthma treatments , etc than white people. Not even Black newborns are spared the wrath of medical abuse as studies show they are are 3-4 times more likely to die under the care of white doctors than when under the care of Black ones.

Moreover, the elderly who were in long term care facilities, also suffered tremendously under these guidelines as they were cut off from their families. And while seniors living in elder care are about 14% of the population – they comprised at least 39% of the deaths. Many of them have been isolated from their families and are living in isolation. And having family members visiting them behind glass partitions is no substitute for the touch, hugs, and physical contact from family that they need.. Compounding matters, the Federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)relaxed Nursing Home regulations early on. This meant that without family on site to advocate for them, these privately owned facilities were left to operate without any independent oversight. Although the government gave them $21 billion nationally, only 2.5 billion has been spent on infection control.

The decision to exclude family from healthcare facilities in any capacity has devasting affects and compounded with the racism embedded in the healthcare system, it is the Black and Indigenous communities that bear the brunt of these decisions. Ultimately, it is the job of the family to monitor everything that is going on in these facilities to ensure that their loved ones are being treated properly! . At least one family member, or designated person of the patients’ choice, should be allowed visitation as long as they are wearing PPE and adhering to social distancing and hand washing protocols. If PPE can protect medical staff against infection, then it can also protect family members. And if supermarkets can be open whereby essential workers are forced to be around hundreds of people at any given minute, then people should be able to visit family members in healthcare facilities.

In conclusion, the United States’ handling of this whole pandemic has been an abysmal failure, and along with Europe, it has some of the worst statistics in the world. As of 6/12, it has more deaths than any other country at 614, 738 — almost twice the number of deaths as India. It also has one of the highest death rates at over 1,800 per 1 million. So regardless of the reasons that it implemented such draconian visitation measures, they did not work. And we must make it known that we do not ever want anything like this to be implemented again.

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