Covid-19 patients are again pushing intensive care units in parts of Switzerland towards their limits, causing some professionals to pose controversial questions on the allocation of treatment, reported 20 Minutes.
In a press release this week, the Swiss Nursing Association sounded the alarm on intensive care units (ICU) reaching overload. It said that if significant effective measures were not taken rapidly, doctors would be forced to choose which patients received treatment and which did not. Some who need a place in ICU might not get one and risk death, it wrote.
According to 20 Minutes, a hospital in Aarau has already been forced to choose. Prioritising means that some people will have to wait longer to be admitted to ICU and that brings health risks, said Philipp Lenz, the head of communications at the hospital.
Given the current ICU situation, some professionals think it is reasonable to prioritise those who have been vaccinated over those who haven’t. Infectious diseases specialist Andreas Widmer told SonntagsBlick that he thinks the vaccination status should be integrated into the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences (ASSM) medical ethics guidelines. Widmer said that it is not right that unvaccinated people take ICU places from the vaccinated, reducing their chance of survival.
However, not everyone agrees. The ASSM said it was not open to changing its guidelines. Sibylle Ackermann, the head of ethics at ASSM, said that while she understood the frustration of healthcare staff, ASSM is firmly opposed to considering vaccination status when prioritising care. Decisions should be made based on medical criteria.
Michele Genoni, head of the Swiss Surgeons’ Association, said that vaccination status should never become a factor for deciding who gets ICU treatment. According to him, priority should alway be given to those with the highest chance of survival.
Ruth Baumann-Hölzle, a medical ethics expert is also firmly opposed to using vaccination status as a criterion. Discriminating against the unvaccinated is a violation of human rights, according to her, and a red line that we should not cross.