Doctors in the United Kingdom will be given guidelines by the NHS to help them make life-or-death decisions about coronavirus victims if they run out of intensive care beds or ventilators.
This means the health body has taken cognition of the fact that hospitals are likely to be faced with terrible choices in the weeks to come and cannot be expected to make them alone.
They will cover patients with conditions including respiratory disease, cancer, heart disease and diabetes, although it is unclear whether they will also set an age limit above which treatment could be withdrawn.
Potentially, it could also see a patient already on a ventilator removed to allow a someone with a greater chance of survival to take his or her place.
The move follows terrible scenes in the worst-hit parts of Italy, branded “an apocalypse” as older and sicker patients are rejected for treatment in favour of the younger and fitter – with a warning to the UK to “get ready”.
In the UK, the low number of ventilators is already a huge controversy. The NHS has just 4,000 – forcing the government to put out a desperate appeal for manufacturers to urgently build more.
Furthermore, the UK has just 6.6 intensive care beds per 100,000 people – half the number in Italy and about a fifth of the total in Germany.
In Italy, Antonio Pesenti, coordinator of Lombardy’s intensive care crisis unit, urged the UK not make the mistake of being “unprepared for such a speed and such a huge number of patients”.
The professor revealed the region’s intensive care patients had “skyrocketed” from just one on 22 February to 1,800 now.
Setting out Britain’s grim future if “social distancing” measures fail, he said: “Any health system will be overwhelmed by the mass of sick people in one or two days.”
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