Originally published on March 13, 2020.
Doctors in Italy are rationing resources in their intensive care units amid the coronavirus outbreak. Medical officials are urging health care workers not to treat elderly patients or patients with certain comorbidities, regardless of whether they have the virus.
The Italian College of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care (SIAARTI) published utilitarian guidelines stating that doctors and nurses should deny treatment for people who have too low a number of expected “life-years” left. They advised hospitals to follow “the most widely shared criteria regarding distributive justice and the appropriate allocation of limited health resources.” This includes ALL elderly patients needing intensive care treatment, not just those suffering from coronavirus. Aged people with no signs of COVID-19 could be turned away at ICUs to clear space for younger patients who physicians perceive to have more “life-years” left and thus consider more worthy of investing medical resources.
Italy, which alongside China has seen the bulk of coronavirus cases, has now lost 1,000 from the outbreak. With the oldest population in Europe due to the lowest fertility rate, Italy’s elderly have suffered the heaviest toll. Instead of valuing the God-given dignity of the human person, the Italian health agency’s new utilitarian guidelines degrade people to merely numbers. The utilitarian philosophy spurns vulnerable members of society and encourages doctors to make subjective “quality of life” judgments to decide who lives and who dies.
This outbreak unveils another layer of the disturbing utilitarian and discriminatory ideology of the culture of death, an ideology that the Pro-Life movement has fought long before coronavirus. Texas Right to Life opposes policies that in letter or in effect discriminate against any patients or allow medical professionals to undervalue the neediest among us.
The worldwide panic and media hysteria caused by the coronavirus is prompting people everywhere to neglect or disparage the elderly. Whether by words or deeds, anti-Life ethics have greatly influenced society’s response to the disease. Undoubtedly, we cannot withdraw from our Pro-Life mission while trying to protect from the virus. Now is the time to respond with extraordinary compassion, level-headed caution, and uncompromising resolve to protect those most vulnerable.