An Ethical Framework for Visitation of Inpatients Receiving Palliative Care in the COVID-19 Context

Bethany Russell, Leeroy William, Michael Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Human connection is universally important, particularly in the context of serious illness and at the end of life. The presence of close family and friends has many benefits when death is close. Hospital visitation restrictions during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic therefore warrant careful consideration to ensure equity, proportionality, and the minimization of harm. The Australian and New Zealand Society for Palliative Medicine COVID-19 Special Interest Group utilized the relevant ethical and public health principles, together with the existing disease outbreak literature and evolving COVID-19 knowledge, to generate a practical framework of visiting restrictions for inpatients receiving palliative and end-of-life care. Expert advice from an Infectious Diseases physician ensured relevance to community transmission dynamics. Three graded levels of visitor restrictions for inpatient settings are proposed, defining an appropriate level of minimum access. These depend upon the level of community transmission of COVID-19, the demand on health services, the potential COVID-19 status of the patient and visitors, and the imminence of the patient’s death. This framework represents a cohesive, considered, proportionate, and ethically robust approach to improve equity and consistency for inpatients receiving palliative care during the COVID-19 pandemic and may serve as a template for future disease outbreaks.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Bioethical Inquiry
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Bioethics
  • COVID-19
  • Disease outbreaks
  • Family
  • Palliative Care
  • Patient-centered care

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