Entry to remedy at Coronavirus Hospital should respect the dignity of all, Church leaders say

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The bishops of the Catholic Church have asked that access to coronavirus treatment in hospitals be fair and respect the dignity of all patients.

Given the enormous burden on the NHS from a large number of coronavirus patients, they said that access to treatment must be fair and not determined by mental or physical abilities or other factors such as social function, age or existing health.

"With the escalation of the corona virus, the demand for NHS resources exceeds supply, and those responsible for our care and wellbeing face challenging choices," they said.

"What comes to mind is what care will be available if I or a loved one needs treatment and life support in these circumstances.

"Although we all agree that the allocation of resources must be as fair as possible, the criteria of fairness must be clear and shared by all of us.

"These principles apply both morally and legally, which govern our expectations and rights in terms of health and social care."

The bishops reflected the Christian understanding that all people are equated in the image of God, and said that the value of everyone is not diminished by illness.

"God made each one of us, giving us all the same dignity and value. This is never lost when we are sick or die," they said.

Given scarce resources, the bishops said that treatment decisions must be based on whether they are likely to benefit the patient and must take into account "the common good".

"It is important to take into account in any discussion of resource allocation and medical rationing if, according to most people's experience, the tension between adequate treatment and resource scarcity has never been so visible," they said.

"A decision against offering a person a particular life-extending treatment should never be a judgment based on the value of that person's life, including their age or other social characteristics, but a pragmatic decision about the likelihood that they will be treated Intervention benefits based on their health status.

"This principle has been repeatedly confirmed in case law, and the NHS constitution itself is clear that we should provide care and support in a way that achieves dignity and compassion for each individual we serve.

They asked people with underlying health conditions to discuss their views on treatment with their families to ensure good communication with healthcare workers, but they also asked hospital staff to "be sensitive to those affected".

"We pray for them as they strive to serve both the patient and our society in this time of need, and we thank them for their hard work and commitment," they said.

"We always have to pay attention to the spiritual care of the patients and their families as well as the health and social staff.

"Our chaplains play a special role in this regard, but we will all know someone for whom we can pray and offer support."

The letter was signed by Bishop John Sherrington, Bishop Paul Mason and Bishop Richard Moth.

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