I continue to think about and feel saddened by some information given to us at Mass this Sunday. My pastor explained, in talking about CDC guidelines for ebola, that patients are in complete isolation, unable to even receive visits from their priest and unable to receive the sacraments.
I first thought, What?! How can that be? Who could be so insensitive, so cruel as to deny the sacraments to a person in very real danger of dying? And yet it appears that that is exactly what is going on.
We are told that ebola can be treated safely. Of course, initial assertions to that effect have turned out to be wrong. Two nurses who treated Mr. Duncan, Nina Pham and Amber Vincent, have contracted ebola. But now the protocols for the required protective gear have been increased. Presumably, the CDC will continue to say that ebola can be treated safely.
If the medical personnel, when wearing proper protective gear, are safe to enter the room of an ebola patient, then why would a priest in protective gear not be protected? Or a Eucharistic minister? I can't think of any reason why an ebola patient should be denied access to a priest! Nina Pham suffering from ebola right now is a devout Catholic! And she cannot receive the Eucharist or the Sacrament of the Sick???
For that matter, it also seems logical that an ebola patient should be able to have a family member with them. Perhaps two at a time as in an ICU.
Is the concern that a priest or loved one might not be able to safely put on and take off the protective gear? Well, have a professional do it for them!
As a Catholic, I know the tremendous healing power of the sacraments. But even someone who did not know that ought to be able to understand the spiritual comfort they bring to someone who may indeed be dying!
And to not be in the presence of loved ones? Are we not to consider the emotional comfort that a loved one brings to a sick person? Should the worst case scenario unfold should these people have to die alone? This is inhumane.
Perhaps there are other factors I am not considering. Perhaps I do not know enough about infectious disease. It just seems to me that some kind of accommodation could be made that acknowledges the humanity of the suffering patient.