New guidance on end-of-life care for people with COVID-19

A summary of a task force report in the European Respiratory Journal

As the coronavirus pandemic has spread across the world, healthcare professionals have received little guidance about how best to look after people and make them comfortable at the end of their life.

International specialists have come together to develop a report which provides a set of recommendations based on their combined expertise.

How was the report put together?

90 international experts were asked to complete an online survey. They had to state whether they agreed, or not, with 14 potential recommendations. If 70% agreed, the recommendation was put into the report.

What were the recommendations?

The recommendations covered a range of areas, such as the treatment of breathlessness, spiritual preferences, psychological and social care and bereavement care.

Key recommendations included:

  • People diagnosed with severe COVID-19 and their loved ones should be asked what their preferences are for end-of-life care at the time of diagnosis;
  • People with breathlessness that is causing them distress should be given oxygen treatment to help ease any suffering;
  • Staff taking care of patients should receive training in how best to communicate with patients whilst wearing protective equipment;
  • Family members/loved ones should be invited and supported (for example being provided with protective equipment) to visit people who are at the end of their life.

Read the full paper to see all 14 recommendations.

Why is this important?

As this is a new disease, healthcare professionals have limited experience with the condition. These recommendations provide a concrete set of guidelines for people managing the end-of-life care for someone with COVID-19. The authors advise that future studies are needed to provide evidence to support this expert advice.  

Read the original research paper:

Title: COVID-19: Guidance on Palliative care from a European Respiratory Society International Task Force