Lifeboat in the ICU

We don’t hear much about what is going on in Australia or New Zealand any more. One might get the impression that they have only lightly been touched by the pandemic. But the truth is a bit different:

From Bloomberg, August 21, 2009:

Swine flu filled up Geoff Shaw’s intensive care unit in Christchurch, New Zealand, last month, forcing some surgeries to be canceled as the hospital struggled to cope. As winter moves to the Northern Hemisphere, health officials from Chicago to London brace for a similar overload.

“We have run out of bed space, we have run out of nurses,” Shaw, 47, said after working in the ICU and being on- call for 185 hours over 11 days. “There will be people who die because they were denied access to other treatments.”

The quote uses the future tense to describe denial of care, but is that accurate? Have any patients in Australia or New Zealand already died because of over-crowded ICUs? Is there any legal requirement that patients or their families be told that they are being allowed to die because there are not enough resources available to them due to the pandemic? Or are they simply never offered appropriate care and allowed to die?

If we are going to start throwing people off the lifeboat, the least we can do is tell them.


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