A Project for Our Time

September 30, 2020 • Posted in Blog

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D. Joy Riley, M.D., M.A.
Executive Director

The responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have been by turns dramatic and disconcerting, and, at times, draconian. I read about Steve Reiter’s deplorable experience and his new project in a BreakPoint commentary in July, and he was kind enough to speak with me by telephone on 24 July.

Steve’s beloved wife, Elizabeth, had diagnoses of lupus and pulmonary hypertension, among other difficulties. She had had a lengthy hospitalization in 2014, but had recovered. Steve attributes her recovery to excellent medical care and the 24/7 presence of her family. She had a Hickman line placed, and Steve became expert using sterile technique in changing the bandage required for that.

In 12 March 2020, she became ill with coronavirus-like symptoms. Her COVID-19 test was negative—the results came two weeks after the test. She was still ill, but not able to see a physician in person: only telemedicine was available. Her condition acutely worsened in the wee hours on 29 April. She was taken to the hospital by ambulance. She worsened again on 9 May, and was transferred to the ICU, where she stayed until the 15th. On 19 May, there were plans for her to be discharged. But she was not discharged to home as anticipated. She had a cardiac arrest, and died in hospital.

Her family—her husband and two sons—were never able to see her after she was whisked away in the ambulance. Neither of them ever tested positive for coronavirus, although they were tested more than once. Steve actually had personal protective equipment (PPE) which he offered to use in order to visit his wife, but the hospital would not budge from its “no visitor” rule. The closest he and their sons were able to get to Elizabeth was through Facetime. Her last 21 days were spent without the presence or touch of her family. More details of their story can be read here and here.

The loss that Steve, the two sons, and the rest of Elizabeth’s family has suffered is intense and lamentable. He is turning his anger into positive action, however. The non-profit, Never Alone Project, is one result. The goal of this project (screen shot with link above) is that patients secure a right to one screened visit per day during hospitalization, even in a pandemic. A bill (Colorado House Bill 1425) to that effect was introduced in the state legislature, then promptly watered down “to a slight nudge.” Helen Raleigh, writing for The Federalist, had this to say about the Reiters’ experience: “Authority figures in this country need to do some soul searching. It’s time they have an honest assessment of their policies and guidelines and reevaluate whether some of their policies and guideline were either unnecessary or simply too cruel.” I concur.


unnamed (10)CRISP-R and Embryos

A recent report from an international committee says the procedure is—for now—”too risky” for embryos that will be transferred to wombs. No word on the ethics of the procedure with this committee, but they expressed interest in following the experimental subjects (i.e., people born through this methodology) “to understand the mental and physical health effects of the procedure for generations to come.”


unnamed (15)Our 2020 Theme: Flourishing

Flourishing in the midst of a pandemic can be a challenging concept, particularly for people in senior living facilities or in nursing homes. That may change for Tennesseans—as early as 1 October. “Facilities that have gone at least 14 days with no new COVID-19 cases among residents or staff members will be allowed to offer outdoor or limited indoor visitation with residents. . .” Read the full article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.