Radio Show

Dr. Charles Camosy on Medical Ethics During the Coronavirus Pandemic


Friend of the show, Dr. Charles Camosy chats with Father Dave about end-of-life ethics as they relate to the Coronavirus pandemic, medical procedures, and abortion.

Dr. Camosy explains the moral questions we’re facing today, “Catholic social teaching requires us to think about the common good and the dignity of the human person ahead of our own personal desires and wants, and sometimes even our needs. I often ask my freshmen, ‘What is it that you’ll die for?’ That also shows you where your treasure is buried in a dramatic way too. We’re faced with these questions now. Do we go to church? Do we go to a drive in church? Can we invite our priest over to get last rites to a family member and a whole bunch of choices in between thinking about these questions. But if there’s one thing this pandemic has revealed it’s that the idea that we can act for our own interests apart from the common good is utterly false.”

RELATED: A Catholic Perspective on Palliative Care

Dr. Camosy argues that we should look at whether or not it’s ethical to allow people to die alone during the pandemic. “I would argue there are some things that we ought to do that matter more,” he says. “I think we ought to allow priests to say last rites for people who are dying in hospitals and in their homes. To be fair, there are important concerns about spreading the virus more, and our priests are getting trained on using personal protective equipment and other things. But even if it marginally increases the rates of infection, I think there’s something we need to think hard about. Are there values that we’re willing to stand for that are more important than just doing a calculation about how many people might be infected as a result of this? And I think the value of having last rites or being able to say goodbye to a family member may be one of those things.”

“I’ll tell you a quick story from a colleague of mine in medical ethics that got me thinking about this. She wrote to me after I was writing about trying to protect older people from being denied ICU care or getting care in a hospital. She said, ’That’s good, but what about somebody like my 90-year-old mother, who, if she were to enter the meat grinder of the ICU and get intubated would almost certainly die alone there. Why shouldn’t she be able to choose to get whatever care can be provided at home and, and then hospice if that’s what ultimately comes up to be the case?’ Sometimes, it just happens because people end up dying of Coronavirus at home. We don’t know about it. That’s a big under-reported part of all of this. But that got me thinking, I said, you know, why not? And then people said, well, there could be higher rates of infection … Or are there some values that we’re just willing through a prudential judgment and prayerful kind of reflection? Say, you know what, it might marginally raise the chances of the family getting Coronavirus, but if they all want to agree to be in the same room when that person dies and say goodbye, that’s something we ought to allow families to decide.”

WATCH: Sacraments 101: Anointing of the Sick

Father Dave points out that there are arguments going on about whether or not abortion is considered an essential procedure during this pandemic. Charlie responds, “I just need to say this pretty directly. The people who are arguing that abortion is just like any other kind of healthcare are so disingenuous about that because killing a child is obviously not an example of healthcare. But even if it is, then you should be responsible for the criteria that other examples of healthcare are using. Here’s what’s actually happening, people who need cancer treatments are not getting their cancer treatments because they’ve been designated as not essential. People who need liver transplants are waiting on the liver transplant because they’ve been designated non-essential. Now you’re going to tell me that abortion is essential and therefore has to stay open. That’s just cheating. If it’s healthcare, play by the rules. You are definitely not an example of essential healthcare. Therefore you should be shut down and we should turn abortion clinics into ICUs where they’re needed. It’s just so blatantly obvious what’s happening here and it’s really kind of gross.”