Pandemic-struck elderly victims have to let relatives know if they want to make use of a precious ventilator to stay alive, a leading health expert says.
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Baroness Finlay, a professor who sits on the British Medical Association’s ethics committee, said plans need to be discussed now.
She said: “We are saying the decision has to be related to the need and the capacity to benefit.
“And when we are talking about people who have a lot of other illness, their capacity to benefit from being in intensive care or on a ventilator is going to be very poor.
“But I think there’s something everyone in the population must be doing now and that is, having key conversations with their nearest and dearest with their family.”
Baroness Finlay also draws up guidelines for NHS staff making difficult decisions about priorities in a crisis.
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She added that those affected must ask themselves, “If there’s somebody who’s not going to do well at all and they don’t want to go to hospital, and they don’t want to be on a ventilator, then it’s really important that everybody knows that.”
Health bosses have worked round the clock to free up 33,000 hospital beds and build a new hospital to deal with the crisis.
Ventilator capacity in the health service is set to double from the current 8,000 in the coming weeks.
Speaking on the BBC’s Any Questions, Baroness Finlay said: “There may be somebody else who, numerically their age is higher but actually they would do very well because they’re fit.
“They don’t have any other illness and it looks as though they could benefit quite well and quite rapidly from intervention and then that would be appropriate.
‘In fairness of allocation, it’s not related to a label such as age or disability, it’s related to whether they need whatever the treatment is, and is it available, and their capacity to benefit it from it.”
Statisticians at Imperial College London have said the death toll could be as low as 5,700 – following earlier estimates of 260,000.
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