Coronavirus Patients Could Be Treated by Value to Society and ‘Lottery’, Warns NHS

CAMBRIDGE, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 05: Clinical staff wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as they care for a patient at the Intensive Care unit at Royal Papworth Hospital on May 5, 2020 in Cambridge, England. NHS staff wear an enhanced level of PPE in higher risk areas such as critical …
Neil Hall - Pool/Getty Images

Coronavirus patients could be chosen for treatment based off of their potential value to society or by “lottery” if hospitals are overrun, an emergency protocol drafted by Britain’s socialised health care system has warned.

The emergency triage document was first published in the Journal for Medical Ethics in November but is now being sent to National Health Service (NHS) hospitals across the country.

The document said that when resources are sufficient, then health decisions should be based solely on what is best for every patient, according to The Telegraph.

However, the document went on to say that “When resources are insufficient, decisions need to include a broader view on what is ethically fair for the wider community (society).”

“Other ethical considerations are more complex and opinions differ considerably. Some judge that an individual’s potential to contribute to maintenance of the critical infrastructure throughout the epidemic may be considered in determining priority for allocation of ICU care,” the protocol said.

“Others have proposed that people who participate in research to improve treatments or vaccines during an epidemic should be given some priority for treatment,” it went on to say.

The draft protocol said that in the event that patients were deemed to have a similar chance of survival and level of contribution to society, then “a random allocation, such as a lottery, may be used.”

The authors of the draft protocol claimed that the document does not represent current policy in the United Kingdom, but is a “research document for the purposes of discussion”.

The national alert level was raised on Monday to ‘Level Five’, meaning that there is “a material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days.”

An NHS doctor who has been campaigning for the government to publish national advice on rationing of care or “population triage”, Dr Moosa Qureshi, said that the publication of the advice demonstrated a failure of leadership.

“We are appalled that NHS doctors are now having to draw up their own guidelines as a direct consequence of the Health Secretary’s abdication of responsibility”, said Dr Qureshi, referring to Tory government minister Matt Hancock.

Qureshi went on to warn that “ad hoc policy-making” from local teams at NHS trusts will only lead to inconsistency and inefficiency that could lead to “large numbers of avoidable deaths.”

An NHS spokesperson claimed: “The NHS has been clear that no patient who could benefit from treatment should be denied it and, thanks to the hard work of nurses, doctors and countless others in creating surge capacity and hospitals working together and that has not happened.

“However, it is vital that we cut the spread of the virus and everyone can play their part by following the advice on ‘hands, face, space’ and staying at home.”

On Tuesday, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons, Professor Neil Mortensen, said that the NHS will likely be forced to delay possibly life-saving cancer operations, amidst the spike in Chinese virus cases.

In August, a survey conducted by the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) found that ten per cent of care homes in the United Kingdom were told by NHS managers to introduce do not resuscitate (DNR) orders for elderly coronavirus patients during the first wave.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here: @KurtZindulka


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