An age cut-off for coronavirus treatment? UK's plans stir anger!

WION Web Team
New Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Bharat SharmaUpdated: Apr 03, 2020, 10:59 AM IST
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The virus has taken the lives of over 2,921 people in the UK, with 569 deaths recorded just on Wednesday

The UK recently announced plans to test 100,000 people everyday by the end of this month.

However, as of now, the country has not even met the target of conducting 25,000 tests per day.

Additionally, Boris Johnson, who himself tested positive for the virus has vowed to improve testing in the country, amid criticism that the country is simply not conducting enough tests compared to other countries at a similar stage of the epidemic.

So far, the virus has taken the lives of over 2,921 people in the UK, with 569 deaths recorded just on Wednesday.

The British Medical Association (BMA) recently came up with a controversial set of “ethics guidelines”. As per this, older patients who may not survive the virus will not receive guaranteed treatment. In essence, the ventilators will be allotted to healthier patients.

Older, sicker patients could be in for a harder time amid equipment shortages. As has been the global pattern, the younger and healthier will be favoured, while the rest will simply be left to die, given the shortage of ventilators.

UK PM Boris Johnson | AFP

As per BMA guidelines, doctors will need to make “grave decisions” about who should receive “scarce lifesaving resources” as the country’s health system gets overwhelmed everyday.

"As such, some of the most unwell patients may be denied access to treatment such as intensive care or artificial ventilation," the BMA's ethics guidance note states.

"This will inevitably be indirectly discriminatory against both the elderly and those with long-term health conditions, with the latter being denied access to life-saving treatment as a result of their pre-existing health problems", it added.

An age cut-off for treatment?

Even though an age cut-off cannot be enforced, for it would be illegal, older patients with pre-existing conditions will not be given priority for care, especially ones with existing respiratory issues. 

As per the statement, people with a "very high chance of dying despite intensive care” will not be prioritised for admission.

The UK government had earlier warned that the country’s system could be overburdened if social distancing measures were not followed strictly.

A convention centre in London is being converted into a huge hospital, and could become the biggest intensive care unit in the country.

Additionally, a temporary mortuary is being built in east London, with the numbers increasing everyday.

Testing rates in the country have remained dismal amid increased calls to improve the mechanism. 

"We acknowledge that more needs to be done in relation to testing. We need to be testing more people and we need to be making progress very quickly," a government spokesperson told CNN.

The Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty on Wednesday claimed that the country did not have “sufficient testing” capabilities to identify cases, adding that there was a “global shortage” of tests.

Additionally, medical personnel have raised concerns regarding PPEs and supplies running low.

However, the government expressed confidence over procuring more equipment.