DOCTORS have been told they could take elderly patients with little chance of survival off ventilators and give them to healthier patients, if the NHS becomes overwhelmed.
The advice from the British Medical Association features in new guidelines over how doctors should prioritise patients in intensive care treatment during the coronavirus pandemic.
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In a situation where a hospital was unable to cope due to high numbers of patients admitted with coronavirus, staff would be allowed to deny intensive care treatment or artificial ventilation to some of the most unwell patients.
The doctor's union admitted that the new guidelines discriminated against the elderly and other people with long-term health conditions.
The new advice said: "Some of the most unwell patients may be denied access to treatment such as intensive care or artificial ventilation.
"This will inevitably be indirectly discriminatory against both the elderly and those with long-term health conditions relevant to their ability to benefit quickly, with the latter being denied access to life-saving treatment as a result of their pre-existing health problems.
"A simple ‘age cut-off’ policy would be unlawful as it would constitute direct age discrimination.
"A healthy 75-year-old cannot lawfully be denied access to treatment on the basis of age. However, older patients with severe respiratory failure secondary to COVID-19 may have a very high chance of dying despite intensive care, and consequently have a lower priority for admission to intensive care."
The new guidelines come just days after a 90-year-old woman died of the coronavirus after telling doctors: 'I had a good life, keep ventilators for younger patients.'
Suzanne Hoylaerts, 90, was hospitalised in Belgium after suffering with respiratory issues.
But she turned down a ventilator – and died of Covid-19 just two days later.
Her death comes during a global shortage of the essential medical kit.
Ms Hoylaerts, who lived in Binkom, near Lubbeek, was first hospitalised on March 20 after suffering a lack of appetite and shortness of breath.
She tested positive for the virus and was placed in isolation, where her condition went rapidly downhill and she died two days after she was admitted to the hospital.
NHS figures suggest more than 1.7million Brits may already have been infected by coronavirus.
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Since March 18, 1,496,651 people registered only symptoms in line with Covid-19, while another 243,543 assessments were made through NHS 111 and 999 calls.
The UK coronavirus death rate shot up by another 50 per cent yesterday- after 563 people died in a single day.
The total number of patients who have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus has gone up from 1,789 to 2,352.
397 million extra pieces of protection kit have now been shipped in for "amazing" NHS staff, it was revealed by the Prime Minister last night.
The government faced criticism after it was revealed just 2,000 NHS staff – out of 550,000 – had been tested for coronavirus.
The NHS are at the frontline of the battle against the bug, with the number of patients testing positive rising from 25,150 to 29,474 as the pandemic spreads.
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