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Against visitor bans: freedom of association, COVID-19 and the hospital ward
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  • Published on:
    The Right to Safety and Freedom of Association
    • Jason Chen, Postdoctoral Researcher The Ohio State University

    This author agrees with the claim that freedom of association is a basic moral right and that the right to have visitors stems from this freedom. This author also agrees that the discussion around visitor policy should be framed as a discussion about rights infringement. However, this author suggests that the discussion around restriction is best described as a potential conflict between two rights: freedom of association and the right to safety. Accordingly, the rights infringement could go either way.

    It is reasonable to claim that people have a moral right to safety (or something like it), and it is reasonable to say that this right should be highly protected in a hospital, where the sick and injured seek treatment. If people do have a right to safety, then it follows that this right would be infringed if hospitals did not take reasonable precautions to reduce hospital-acquired infections. Limiting visitors during COVID-19 should be seen as an example of such a precaution.

    To be clear, McTernan recognizes that safety is an important consideration, but she does not state that it is a right. This affects the framing of the issue. Appealing to something as a right makes it substantially harder to act against that which is protected by that right. It is for this reason that McTernan correctly argues that restricting visitation is harder when we appeal to freedom of association.

    The issue, then, is one in which patients have potentially two conflicting...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.

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