Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 70(3) August 2020

Editorial: Coronavirus

Dr Adrian TreloarThe coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has shaped all of our lives over the last few months. Alongside the deep and profound heroism of health care workers such as doctors, nurses, physios, OTs, but also including NHS admin staff etc., there have been many more acts of heroism.

Chaplaincy staff have continued to visit the sick, going onto Covid wards, anointing the sick and dying. Many lay people have also fed the needy, done shopping for those who found themselves housebound and done other great acts of charity. And we have all prayed.

Separated from our churches, unable to attend Mass and watching Mass online has been an almost universal experience of the faithful. Meetings have occurred by Zoom, Webex and other video conference systems. They have been surprisingly well attended. As tiny examples a talk by me, in Hull on Miracles and Lourdes had over 30 people watching it. And our Sussex branch meeting was also very well attended.

In the May CMQ I talked of the uncertainty we all faced. Oddly, that deep uncertainty persists. We do not know how this will all end. We do not know if there will be a second wave, although it is clear that if there is a second wave it is likely to be in the autumn and even more lethal than the first wave.

Many of us have lost dear friends. Two priests whom I know died of the virus, along with others, including Norman Wells the Chief Executive Officer of Family and Youth Concern. He leaves a wife and 9 children. Others fought bravely and survived. Every death was first a person, not a statistic. We know now that, while taking the lives of young and healthy people, the virus focusses it lethality on frail and elderly people. And yet some of the frailest older people (including my 96 year old father in law) did the seemingly impossible and survived.

National guidance on access to care appeared to discriminate against people with a diagnosis of frailty or dementia. (see page 7)

And in the context of all that, doctors have been doing video consultations. The delivery of abortion pills at home after a video consultation has burgeoned, alongside some of the most radical and unrestricted abortion law reform Northern Ireland. Those who seek to kill the unborn have made some rapid progress. Which makes even more compelling the need to offer abortion pill reversal for the women who contact SPUC, the Good Counsel Network and others asking for that service. There is a real glimmer of hope alongside all the horror. We are seeing an increasing number of women seeking abortion pill reversal. And in the midst of the crisis, the dire appalling and indefensible murder of George Floyd by a white policeman in Minneapolis led to worldwide “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations. The act of policing was indefensible. I have previously watched a training video of a US policeman restraining and killing a black man in very similar circumstances. I cannot believe that the US police force seemed so totally and dreadfully to have failed to learn the lesson I was taught (by their actions which were videoed and used for training) years ago.

There is no question that Black lives matter. And as Dr Cole reminds us in this issue, (page26) modern slavery is a scourge that is happening today. But in fact, all lives matter, including the unborn, the frail the elderly, the disabled and many more.

Most of all we thank God for the heroism of many. But now is also the time to think hard about what we do, and what we offer, to those who suffer in this world.

The coronavirus has shown a real affinity for the vulnerable (perhaps most strikingly so in care homes). So must we. The protection of the vulnerable is perhaps our greatest duty. It is really important that we respond to those requests for help, be it from modern slavery, to the dying or to women who request abortion pill reversal. There is much to do. And we need to do it. Please also be sure to read also the Coronavirus tales on page 12 and Dr Cole’s letter on modern slavery (page 26)