Sunday 24 January 2021

MPs change position on IC lottery, ask minister to rethink age criteria

Photo: Depositphotos.com

MPs do not, after all, want a ban on age being used as a selection category if there is no more space in intensive care and have asked hospital care minister Tamara van Ark to rethink her plan.

MPs from three of the four coalition parties plus most of the opposition now say they do not want the government to press ahead with legislation, even though most voted in favour of the idea earlier this year, broadcaster NOS reported.

Van Ark told MPs on Tuesday the cabinet is bringing in legislation which could ultimately require doctors to organise a lottery of patients if intensive care beds are completely full and life or death choices have to be made.

Her 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.

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.’

Careful

However MPs say that doctors and specialists had come to a ‘very careful and well-considered’ approach. In addition, doctors can decide together with the patient and relatives what the best option is, they argue.

ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Segers said that while opposing age discrimination, the doctors have a ‘clear story’ to tell and that politicians should not be taking decisions that should be left to medical experts.

The minister has agreed to discuss what the best option is with all the groups involved, broadcaster NOS reported.

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