If You’re Over 80 in Italy and Have Coronavirus You Are Out of Luck
How bad could the coronavirus pandemic get? The UK Daily Mail describes the situation in Italy, a country that is being hit hard by the disease.
“Italian coronavirus patients who are 80 or older will not receive intensive care if the crisis worsens, under emergency plans being proposed in Turin. The plans drawn up by civil protection officials warn that ‘it will be necessary to apply criteria for access to intensive treatment’ if there are too many patients. The document, seen by the Daily Telegraph, proposes that these criteria must include the age of less than 80. Doctors have already described making life-or-death decisions about who can be treated and who may effectively be left to die.”
One Italian doctor has described the situation as something akin to being in a war. Too many Italians, many of them elderly and some with other health conditions, are coming down with more serious forms of the coronavirus that need a stay in an ICU with a ventilator and medications to get them through. So Italian healthcare authorities are contemplating an extreme form of triage, in which the old are allowed to die in order to give the young and sick a chance to survive.
As of this writing, the daily list of new infections is listed in the thousands and the death rate in the hundreds per day. One in five Italians is over the age of 60. Italians, common with most Europeans, tend to smoke more than Americans, hence they tend to have more respiratory ailments.
As ABC News reports, the entire country of Italy is in lockdown. That means that Italians are not allowed outside except to buy food or medicine or unless they are employed in an essential occupation, such as healthcare or law enforcement. The order, designed to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus, came too late to prevent a spike in infections and deaths, straining the Italian healthcare system to near the breaking point.
Ironically, the Italian healthcare system is something similar to those that exist in the UK and Canada. International Living notes:
“Italy ranks among the World Health Organization’s top 10 countries for quality health services (by contrast, the U.S. only holds 37th place, despite being the highest spender). However, although medical facilities are considered to be adequate for any emergencies, some public hospitals are reportedly overcrowded and under-funded.”
Even so, to quote something that Bernie Sanders likes to say, healthcare is considered a human right in Italy. The annual fee for the public health insurance system is relatively cheap, at about $236 a year, and non-urgent hospital visits cost a small co-pay.
Why is Italy at the brink of allowing some of its older people to die from coronavirus? The quick answer, according to healthcare experts, is that the central planners who run the Italian healthcare system never envisioned a pandemic that makes so many people so severely sick in such a short period of time. To be fair, few people imagined such a situation before it appeared with a vengeance.
The Italian example, as many have pointed out, has given other countries, the United States, a bad example not to follow. The current effort to socially isolate people, restrict international travel, close down non-essential businesses, and scrounge extra ICU beds, ventilators, and medications will, it is hoped, blunt the edge of the pandemic in America. Maybe American doctors will be spared the kind of heartbreaking triage that their Italian counterparts are currently faced with.
In the meantime, as CNBC notes, Italians trapped in their homes are trying to keep one another’s spirits up by singing.
“Videos have been shared on social media of Italian citizens singing and dancing during a nationwide lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. The videos, from various cities and towns, show people singing from balconies and windows in an attempt to boost morale, with all non-essential shops and services still closed in the country.”
The lockdown, as one may imagine, has been psychologically trying to Italians. With entertainment venues, cafes, and restaurants closed until early April, few places exist to go to in any case.
Some healthcare experts express the hope that with warmer, more humid weather drying close, the transmission of the coronavirus will die down similar to what happens with the flu. In such a case, countries in the northern hemisphere will have more time to prepare is the coronavirus returns with the onset of winter.