Coronavirus victims in Italy will be denied access to intensive care if they are aged 80 or more or in poor health should pressure on beds increase, a document prepared by a crisis management unit in Turin proposes.
Some patients denied intensive care will be, in effect, left to die, doctors fear.
Currently in a 15-day lockdown, Italy is by far the worst affected nation in all of Europe with 24,747 people infected with the virus, up from 21,157 on Saturday.
The Italian team drew up a protocol to determine which patients would receive treatment in intensive care and who would not, if there were insufficient spaces in hospitals.
The document, drawn up by the civil protection department of the Piedmont region and seen by The Telegraph, said: “The criteria for access to intensive therapy in cases of emergency must include age of less than 80 or a score on the Charlson comorbidity Index (which indicates how many other medical conditions the patient has) of less than 5.”
It added: “The growth of the current epidemic makes it likely that a point of imbalance between the clinical needs of patients with COVID-19 and the effective availability of intensive resources will be reached.
“Should it become impossible to provide all patients with intensive care services, it will be necessary to apply criteria for access to intensive treatment, which depends on the limited resources available.”
One doctor quoted by The Telegraph said: “(Who lives and who dies) is decided by age and by the [patient’s] health conditions. This is how it is in a war.”