Friday 15 January 2021

Cabinet rules out age as a criterion for an IC bed, if there is a shortage


The cabinet is bringing in legislation which could ultimately require doctors to organise a lottery of patients if intensive care beds are completely full, hospital care minister Tamara van Ark has told MPs.

The minister wants to stop doctors giving youngsters priority over elderly patients if a shortage of IC beds means life or death choices have to be made.

The decision goes against formal recommendations by the federation of doctors KNMG, the federation of medical specialists and a number of ethics professors this summer.

The doctors’ protocol offers non-medical criteria for admission to ICU for patients with equal chances of survival in case of ‘code black’ when there is a serious lack of beds.

In that case, criteria could include the expected time a patient may spend in the ICU, and age, in blocks of 20 years, up to over 80, the doctors say.

The then medical care doctor Martin van Rijn told MPs at the time he could not support the protocol, and MPs too passed a motion which would stop intensive care teams using age as a criterion for admission.

Van Ark said in her statement that the government was doing all it can to make sure such a situation does not arise during the coronavirus pandemic but that she wanted to be ‘prepared for all scenarios’.

‘Given the basis that all people are fundamentally equal, the cabinet has ruled out weighing up the interests of younger generations against older generations,’ she said. ‘Every life is worth the same.’

Thank you for donating to

The team would like to thank all the generous readers who have made a donation in recent weeks. Your financial support has helped us to expand our coverage of the coronavirus crisis into the evenings and weekends and make sure you are kept up to date with the latest developments. has been free for 14 years, but without the financial backing of our readers, we would not be able to provide you with fair and accurate news and features about all things Dutch. Your contributions make this possible.

If you have not yet made a donation, but would like to, you can do so via Ideal, credit card or Paypal.