Withdrawing critical care from patients in a triage situation

Withdrawing critical care from patients in a triage situation

The prestigious journal Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy published the article “Withdrawing critical care from patients in a triage situation” on January 4, 2021 by Joseph Tham, Louis Melahn, and Michael Baggot. The three authors currently serve as professors in the Bioethics Faculty of Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum. The full text of the article can be read online at https://rdcu.be/cc325.

The abstract of the article reads as follows: The advent of COVID-19 has been the occasion for a renewed interest in the principles governing triage when the number of critically ill patients exceeds the healthcare infrastructure’s capacity in a given location. Some scholars advocate that it would be morally acceptable in a crisis to withdraw resources like life support and ICU beds from one patient in favor of another, if, in the judgment of medical personnel, the other patient has a significantly better prognosis. The paper examines the arguments for and against this approach from the point of view of natural law theory, especially using the principle of double effect. We conclude that it is inadmissible to withdraw life-saving medical interventions from patients who are still benefiting from them, on the sole grounds that other patients might benefit more. Those who are currently using such technology should only interrupt their treatment if, in the judgment of medical personnel and, if possible, taking into account the wishes and needs of the patient and his family, the treatment is deemed futile, burdensome, or disproportionate.

 

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