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How far does duty of care extend?

02 October 2020
Volume 28 · Issue 10


George Winter discusses if healthcare workers should honour their duty of care to their patients during the pandemic, when doing so puts themselves and their families at risk

The impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on global health continues apace, generating widespread apprehension among the public and healthcare workers. In midwifery, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (2020) and the Royal College of Midwives note that pregnant women seem no more likely to contract COVID-19 than the general population, and ‘there is currently no evidence that pregnant women are more likely to be severely unwell, need admission to intensive care, or die from the illness than non-pregnant adults’.

Nevertheless, during the spring months, as the UK death toll rose, including many health and social care workers, the concept of a ‘killer virus’ took hold. Although at the time of writing there are currently substantially fewer COVID-19-related deaths than earlier, the sight of gowned, masked and visor-wearing staff caring for acutely ill and infectious patients raised the question of the extent to which a healthcare worker's duty of care to a patient should be honoured.

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