Peaceful protestors encounter unexpected injuries, hospital stays during COVID-19: end-of-life plans encouraged
Nationwide — Leading educator and recognized expert in advance care planning, Dr. Gloria Thomas Anderson, urges a major push in preparing advance healthcare documents for Black Americans, especially now during the protests happening simultaneously during a deadly pandemic.
The Black population in the United States has been hardest hit with fatalities due to COVID-19. Now, with protests and riots happening all over the country in protest of the death of George Floyd by four Minnesota police officers, young and old alike are exposing themselves in incredibly large numbers to additional risks of COVID-19, an often-invisible killer.
Dr. Anderson offers 21 things the Black community needs to know to get their advance care decisions in order before the need arises, in her book, The African-American Spiritual and Ethical Guide to End-of-Life Care: What Y’all Gon’ Do With Me. Most life-threatening emergencies are unplanned, and she stresses the urgency for African Americans to seriously consider advance care planning to avoid unwanted medical treatment without advocacy for their own wishes, family division, and infighting that happens too often in many families when someone becomes hospitalized or dies without their wishes having been made known to their loved ones or medical professionals.
In a recent COVID Ethics Update webinar for the Center for Practical Bioethics, Dr. Anderson stated, “We want to see people having those conversations,” as it relates to getting people to talk about end-of-life care plans and emergency healthcare planning. (https://youtu.be/WwV59Kx-OFk) She says, “The role of advance care planning has always been important to not only African-Americans but to every ethnic group, but especially for people of color who have experienced grave disparities, not only in healthcare but in underlying institutional(ly) constructed systems of racism throughout history.”
Black communities are historically the most vulnerable, and Black Americans are much less likely, when compared to whites, to utilize end-of-life care options (8% Blacks vs 83+% whites), such as hospice and palliative care, that can offer support and helpful resources many families never know are available to them. According to a report by NPR on CDC data (April 8, 2020), about 1 in 3 who become sick enough to require hospitalization due to COVID were Black. Statistically, Black people experience more negative healthcare disparities that impact their quality of life at the end of life. Approximately 54-59% wind up in hospital emergency rooms (healthline.com, 2017) and often die in ICU, without making their wishes known and without having someone to advocate or speak on their behalf.
With the imminent threat of COVID-19 disproportionately hitting Black lives, Dr. Anderson stresses the criticality for the Black community to make tough decisions now to avoid added duress upon their loved ones in the event of an emergent need for medical care and attention during protests or afterward, if having to fight for survival from COVID-19.Gloria Thomas Anderson, Ph.D., LMSW is an Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University in the School of Social Work. She serves as an advanced care planning expert and consultant for various hospices, healthcare, and non-profit organizations nationwide. For more information about Dr. Anderson or her resource guide, please visit the website at www.eolcareguide.org.