New York Times: The hardest questions doctors may face: Who will be saved? Who won’t?Mar 21, 2020
Hospital officials asked her to decide which ones would get the lifesaving resources. “Laura,” one official said. “We need a list.” After gathering other professionals, Dr. Evans checked off the names of the lucky few. Now, she and doctors at hospitals across the country may have to make similarly wrenching decisions about rationing on a far bigger scale. Epidemic experts predict an explosive growth in the number of critically ill patients, combined with severe shortages of equipment, supplies, staffing and hospital beds in areas of the U.S. where coronavirus infections are surging, hot spots that include New York, California and Washington State.
In Colorado, Dr. Matthew Wynia, a bioethicist and infectious disease doctor, is working on a plan that would also assign a score. In his rubric, the first considerations are odds of survival and expected length of treatment. He said there was wide agreement among planners “not to make decisions on perceived social worth, race, ethnic background and long-term disability status,” which some fear could happen if doctors had to make seat-of-the-pants judgments without guidelines.
He is also trying to ensure that patients on admission to Colorado hospitals are asked whether they would forgo a ventilator if there were not enough for everyone. “One thing everyone agrees on is that the most morally defensible way to decide would be to ask the patients,” Dr. Wynia said.
He supports the idea of reassigning ventilators in certain cases. “If things are clearly getting worse, it’s really hard to justify a stance of once you’re on a vent, you own it, no matter how many people have to die in the meantime,” Dr. Wynia said.
Read the full story at the New York Times.