1Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Bucharest, Romania 2National Institute of Legal Medicine, Bucharest, Romania 3Floreasca Clinical Emergency Hospital, Bucharest, Romania 4Dunărea de Jos University, Galați, Romania
Despite using a myriad of methods to combat the spread of COVID-19, the healthcare systems (especially the intensive care units) have been overwhelmed, showing an outpaced capacity of available beds and ventilators. Choosing the right criteria to allocate the scarce ICU seems very challenging, being necessary a rapid, uncomplicated and universally accepted tool for patients’ triage regarding access to lifesaving resources; one such criterion, which generates intense debates, is age. Under certain circumstances, it might seem appropriate to choose to treat a young over an old patient. The main advantage of this approach is the potential for long-term survival, implying an equal right to reach an advanced age. Many authors have given moral reasons to support it, mainly based on utilitarian ethics or on distributive justice. However, there are numerous counterarguments to this approach, which we will summarize in this article. We will show that age should never be used as a unique criterion for withholding/not initiating life-saving procedures, even in pandemics or cases in which healthcare resources are extremely scarce. This approach is based on fundamental Codes of Ethics, such as the WMA Code of Ethics or the Oath of Hippocrates and all physicians treating patients should obey them.
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