Hospitals, nursing homes: towards an enforceable right to visits?

It is a subject that has everyone agree. The senators adopted, Tuesday, October 12, unanimously, a bill to establish “Visiting rights” for the sick and the elderly or disabled, staying in hospitals or nursing homes. Carried by the leader of the Republicans at the Luxembourg Palace, Bruno Retailleau, the text wants to guarantee “in fact” this right, by including it in the public health code, while it is not governed for the ‘moment as by a circular of 2006.

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Filed in April 2021, the bill is a response to the distress of many families who have lost loved ones or witnessed their physical or moral degradation during the pandemic, without having been able to accompany them due to health restrictions. Laurent Frémont is one of them. At the end of 2020, his father, placed in total isolation, was deprived of all external contact before dying. A few weeks after this mourning, Laurent Frémont created the collective “Tenir ta main”, to claim a right to be enforced against visits, which inspired Bruno Retailleau’s proposals.

“More than a year after the start of the crisis, some people are still experiencing traumatic bereavement, are in denial, and carry a feeling of guilt, explains Laurent Frémont. What we hope with this law is that in the event of a possible new wave, the doors of hospitals and nursing homes will not be closed. During the crisis, there were abuses of authority on the part of the management of the establishments. “

“Some directions were too severe”

From the regional space for ethical reflection in Normandy, for which he is responsible, Dr. Grégoire Moutel confirms. “The majority of visitation restrictions have now been lifted, but at the time we saw great injustices and inequalities in terms of access by people outside of health establishments. Some school administrators were too harsh, relying on arguments fueled by fear. ” In a report published in May, human rights defender Claire Hédon went so far as to mention rights “Greatly hampered” for nursing home residents, pointing in particular to the limitation of their ” family ties “.

If the text of the law were adopted by the deputies, it would henceforth be appropriate for the head doctor alone or the coordinating doctor, in nursing homes, to assess whether such or such visit can constitute “ a threat to health ”. And to ban it only for this reason. Likewise, in nursing homes, a director could henceforth only be able to oppose a visit on his own if “It constitutes a threat to public order inside or around the establishment”.

As for patients at the end of their life, none could be refused a visit. ” daily “ of his spouse, partner, ascendant, descendant “Up to the fourth degree”. A relief for Laurent Frémont: “We have made visiting rights sacred at the end of life. Be deprived of it was the ultimate ethical transgression. “

Questions about the concrete implementation of the law

From now on, any visit restrictions will have to be discussed. “Collegial and decisions must be motivated”, he explains. In the event of decisions they consider arbitrary, possible legal remedies would be facilitated for families. “It is not, with this law, to flee our health responsibilities but to avoid excess of zeal”, decrypts Grégoire Moutel, who admits to questioning despite everything about the concrete implementation of the law and the different interpretations that could be made on the ground.

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The bill was not supported by the government. “The right of access is already a legislative principle”, pleaded the Minister of Autonomy, Brigitte Bourguignon, for whom to make it a right “Opposable” is not “Realistic “.


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