The Buenos Aires City Legislature on Thursday approved a law to guarantee the "right to a farewell" to the Covid-19 patients, who have frequently died in solitude due to fear of contagion.
The protocol governing the health system and permitting the presence of a relative aged between 18 and 60 to accompany the terminally ill was unanimously approved.
Health workers in the capital will be instructed to allow family members to maintain a bedside vigil for dying patients, in what is seen as a breakthrough in the care of dying coronavirus patients in the capital, which has borne the brunt of Argentina's 8,000-plus deaths from the disease.
Around the world, hospitals have prohibited heartbroken families from visiting terminally ill Covid-19 patients because of the risk of contagion.
"In much of the world coronavirus is defined as the lonely disease. There are many cases of families who feel that their loved ones died because they felt abandoned," said City deputy Facundo Del Gaiso, author of the initiative.
"Doctors and nurses may accompany, as indeed they do, transmitting affection. Nevertheless, they are not the persons who have shared the lifetimes of the terminal patients whom they accompany and contain," added the legislator.
The measure allows one family member, between the ages of 18 and 60, to keep vigil with the patient. The protocol establishes that those accompanying Covid-19 patients cannot have pre-existing diseases included in the risk groups or be pregnant.
The health centres must give the accompanying person the same bio-security equipment as used by the medical staff so that they can remain by the bedside, as well as providing psychological support.
"We seek to bring the patients together with their loved ones, providing all the necessary means for death with dignity without placing life at risk," the deputy María Luisa González Estevarena pointed out in Thursday’s session.
"We believe that at this stage of the pandemic, we must provide every support to protocols that allow a dignified death, which is a death without pain, in company, a humanised death," said Santiago Levin, president of the Association of Argentine Psychiatrists.
Until now just one city hospital and one private clinic have allowed terminal Covid-19 patients to be accompanied. Bills similar to that approved by Buenos Aires City are being pushed in a dozen provinces.
The government has also published some recommendations in that direction for the health system nationwide.
Argentina is at a peak moment of the coronavirus pandemic with a record 10,550 cases of contagion and 237 deaths on Wednesday.