Family Presence for Critically Ill Patients During a Pandemic

Chest. 2021 Aug;160(2):549-557. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2021.05.003. Epub 2021 May 8.


Family engagement is a key component of high-quality critical care, with known benefits for patients, care teams, and family members themselves. The COVID-19 pandemic led to rapid enactment of prohibitions or restrictions on visitation that now persist, particularly for patients with COVID-19. Reevaluation of these policies in response to advances in knowledge and resources since the early pandemic is critical because COVID-19 will continue to be a public health threat for months to years, and future pandemics are likely. This article reviews rationales and evidence for restricting or permitting family members' physical presence and provides broad guidance for health care systems to develop and implement policies that maximize benefit and minimize risk of family visitation during COVID-19 and future similar public health crises.

Keywords: COVID-19; critical care; ethics; family; policy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Family*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Visitors to Patients*