Ensuring Respect for Human Rights in Locked-Down Care Homes

Lead Research Organisation: University of Essex
Department Name: School of Philosophy and Art History


Residential care facilities have been at the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, with high rates of infection and high mortality rates. In response, many care homes have been 'locked-down' for extended periods, with expanded restrictions on the liberty both of residents and of those who wish to visit them. Even as the broader society emerges from lockdown, these restrictions continue in care home settings. If/when the restrictions are finally lifted, they are likely to be re-imposed in any care home where a new infection is reported.

The aim of this project is to determine how best to ensure that the human rights of residents of locked-down care homes are protected, both during the pandemic itself and in the 'new normal' that is likely to follow. The project focuses on three practices that have been common in care homes during the pandemic: the use of blanket restrictions on the movement of residents and their visitors; the blanket use of "Do Not Attempt Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation" (DNACPR) orders; decisions to restrict transfer of unwell patients to acute-care hospital facilities.

The project addresses two main questions.

1) How should the human rights to (inter alia) life, liberty, and non-discrimination be interpreted and applied to these three practices in the context of a public health emergency?

2) How can existing roles such as best-interests assessors (BIAs) and independent mental capacity advocates (IMCAs) best be adapted to help ensure respect for the human rights of residents who are living and dying in locked-down care homes?


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