With the ever increasing cases of Covid-19 cases around the country, it will reach a point when the number of patients needing the ventilators is more than the number of ventilators available. For example, if there is only one ventilator and there are two patients whose lives depend on the availability of the ventilator, how do doctors determine who get to use the machine and who dies?
With the rising cases of Covid 19 around the country, at one point, doctors will be faced with an option that no one would like to make: determining who lives and who dies as a result of a shortage of ventilators. In most cases among medical professionals, when faced with this scenarios, doctors around the world triage to determine who lives and dies when there are too many patients and too little resources such as life support equipment or medications. This is especially true when there is an accident involving multiple casualties. What triage entails is to determine who is least injured and hence more likely to survive. Essentially, doctors allocate the limited resources available to patients that have more chances of surviving for example the least injured.
But with Covid-19, how exactly will doctors arrive at such a decision? In countries like Italy where the medical facilities are overwhelmed, there has been reports that the elderly and the seriously sick are simply left to die. Doctors are simply unable to cater for everyone, the facilities are overcrowded and there is a serious shortage of medical equipment to cater for each and every patient that is brought to the hospital. What Italy did was to set the age limit in which people above that age will not be attended to when brought to the hospital in order to free up space in the Intensive Care Unit for other patients below that age.
Whereas age limits are used as a criteria in determining how scarce medical resources are used in Italy, that notion has been rejected in other parts of the world. For example in Canada, ethics committees were established by various provinces in the country. They all reached a consensus that age should not be used to determine how resources are used as this will be discriminatory against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Instead, there was a unanimous agreement that resources will be allocated to patients who simply have the best chances of surviving regardless of age. For Kenyan doctors, it will be interesting to see how such decisions will be made. Will Kenyan doctors choose the Italian way or the Canadian way? Or will Kenya come with its way of determining how scarce medical equipment or supplies will be allocated?
What do you think? Which way should Kenyan doctors go? Let us know in the comments below.