05 Oct 2022
30 Sep 2022
In the midst of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic, many frontline healthcare workers acquired the disease, several of them becoming critically ill. While the psychological and emotional care for patients and their families is integrated into some management guidelines for COVID-19 patients, there is little guidance on caring for co-workers who contract the disease. This essay describes and analyzes the case of a healthcare worker who succumbs to severe COVID-19 infection at a major Saudi Arabian hospital. It illustrates an example of moral conflict occurring in the course of caring for a hospitalized healthcare worker during the broader context of a global pandemic. This paper discusses three main ethical challenges. First, identifying an appropriate surrogate decision-maker, specifically when the family is not physically available due to travel restrictions. Second, maintaining medical confidentiality of sick co-workers. Third, addressing the unique ethical challenges associated with caring for a fellow healthcare worker, including emotional distress and additional professional burdens on the treating team. The authors contemplate these ethical issues and present recommendations for similarly challenging situations. COVID-19 infection among healthcare workers and their hospitalization may result in moral conflict that impacts those caring for sick colleagues. The authors hope that this article offers some guidance to other practitioners encountering similar moral dilemmas.