Horowitz: Scottish COVID inquiry report finds excess deaths from severe lockdowns of senior care facilities
You have to give the Scots credit. At least they set up an inquiry commission to study what went wrong with the response to COVID and to make recommendations for the future. Is either party in the U.S. calling for such a commission?
While it’s obvious to anyone with a modicum of common sense, it’s nice to see a Scottish government-sanctioned inquiry raise concerns about the way nursing home patients were treated during the pandemic. A new 143-page report published by Edinburgh Napier University on behalf of the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry found that the severe lockdown of senior care home residents “caused great distress and is likely to have contributed in a number of cases to cognitive and emotional decline and even death.”
“The rights of those in care home and their visitors should not have been disproportionately impacted during the pandemic,” observes the inquiry regarding the violation of human rights and the lack of proportionality in attempting to shield seniors in care from the virus. “Any restriction of visiting rights must therefore have been kept under constant review throughout, assessed on an individual basis and in light of the prevailing situation regarding the pandemic in Scotland with clear and updated guidance being provided.”
The report further observes how none of the detention policies were authorized by new laws and even the dubious executive authority used to promulgate the general lockdowns was applied in a discriminatory manner toward senior care residents, as if they had fewer rights. “Much of the discussion around restrictions focuses on restricting visiting by families, which raises clear Article 8 issues, and questions of proportionality. Even more problematic legally is the fact that many residents were not allowed to leave the care home during the pandemic (or even their room in some cases), which is clearly a deprivation of liberty requiring lawful authority under Article 5.”
Given the high rate of senior care COVID deaths, there really is no evidence that any of these measures worked. But the inquiry does note that the extreme isolation likely hastened the deaths of many people. “There is substantial evidence of the harm and distress caused to residents and their families by the restrictions imposed in care homes. This includes concerns that, particularly for people with dementia, being unable to maintain contact with their family exacerbated cognitive and emotional decline, potentially hastening their death.”
The report cites the heartbreaking examples detailed by a petition to the Scottish parliament by families of senior care residents:
- Daughters were forced to watch from a distance as carers held a dying mother’s hand.
- Elderly husbands peered through windows to see their distressed wives reaching out for a familiar touch.
- Children and young adults were left distraught and with no comprehension as to why they were “abandoned” by their family.
- The use of prison-style screens and intercom communication was cold, unfeeling, and gave no comfort.
- iPads and online communication were impossible for the many residents with no understanding of Zoom calls or Facetime.
Compared to the general population, residents within care home environments were considered at greater risk from the harms that any infection could present. This should not have legitimised the need for enforced restrictions or bans on freedoms, such as access to loved ones.
Those of you with loved ones in senior care facilities in the U.S. can commiserate with the understanding that this tragedy played out just as demonically in the land of the free and the home of the brave as it did in Europe.
This entire tragedy could have been avoided from day one by bringing in the doctors who were successfully treating COVID and offering these residents preventive treatment and aggressively treating them. But in fact, they got less treatment than even the general population. They were isolated, often without proper care, and became weaker and even more vulnerable to COVID and to the exacerbation of the many other ailments most nursing home residents suffer from.
The Scottish report concludes this section by calling for an inquiry into whether the measures were lawful, accounted for human rights, and were proportionate and applied evenly, as well as an investigation into the harms they caused. Such an inquiry needs to be done here in the U.S. so we can understand what happened in the nursing home facilities in 2020 – how many people died from lack of treatment for COVID and how many died due to other, more sinister reasons.
Just last week, John Dee, a former head of clinical audit at a U.K. National Health Service hospital, posted data from the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics showing a sudden burst of 3,000 care home resident deaths in just one week in April 2020. From weeks 13 through week 21 (roughly April and May), he tabulated 11,253 excess deaths in care facilities certified as non-COVID by physicians.
\u201cCare home deaths were running above average for the first few months of 2020, but falling back towards normal.\n\nThen they (ie non-Covid only) shot up vertically, in synchronised fashion, immediately lockdowns were announced.\n\n1/\n\nhttps://t.co/maTpGyWKuX\u201d— Jonathan Engler \ud83d\udc2d (@Jonathan Engler \ud83d\udc2d) 1655377606
His observations are very disturbing:
We may expect care homes to have been under tremendous pressure at this time, with neglect and errors creeping in, but this would have generated a steady ramping of excess death as residents slowly suffered; it would not have generated a sudden and significant spike. Some folk are arguing that misdiagnosed COVID death during the early stages of the pandemic may be to blame and I am sure this forms part of the picture, but again this would not explain a sudden and significant surge in (synchronised) death. In my NHS experience blips like this are caused by changes in policy and we must consider the unpalatable prospect of iatrogenic death.
In other words, in addition to the long-term exacerbation of physical and cognitive decline that likely added excess non-COVID deaths over time, something happened during those weeks to induce precipitous direct excess deaths. Add this to the list of endless questions not being raised in what should be a “9/11 commission”-style committee in every democratic country to explore every facet of the origins of COVID, the response to it, and who was responsible for both, so that this may never happen ever again.At a time when the U.S. is the only country to push the dangerous shots on the youngest children, let’s not forget the calamity that was foisted upon the most senior among us.