ABOVE: Victims of swine flu will be rated on their chances of survival
ABOVE: Doctors are asking victims not to come into surgeries for fear
of spreading the virus.
28th July 2009
By Josh Layton
DOCTORS will "play God" in deciding which swine flu victims to save
under a Doomsday scenario.
Patients with the best chance of survival will be given priority.
But a "scoring" system would rule out intensive care treatment for
people with problems such as advanced cancer.
The grim plans will only be introduced if half the population becomes
infected with the H1N1 virus.
So far the UK death toll stands at more than 30, with 100,000 new
cases diagnosed last week.
But health experts fear that swine flu could mutate into an even
Their concerns are contained in a Department of Health report called
Pandemic Flu – Managing Demand And Capacity In Health Care
The study says that 6,600 patients a week could be left competing for
just under 4,000 intensive care beds.
Patients unlikely to benefit from treatment would be given painkillers
and left in "dying rooms".
Intensive Care Society president Dr Carl Waldmann said: "Even if we
doubled intensive care capacity, with a pandemic hitting at the level
outlined in this report we would run out of beds."
Dr Tony Calland, chairman of the British Medical Association's ethics
committee, said: "I seriously doubt we will get anywhere near a 50%
clinical attack rate, but if 25% of the population were infected that
could cause major problems for the health service.
"The Department of Health is right to address this in the report and
the NHS must face the issue, but many doctors would doubtlessly feel
extremely uncomfortable if they found themselves having to face these
kinds of decisions."
A Health Department spokesman said: "We can't be certain how the
current pandemic will develop, but we have to prepare for the
reasonable worst case."
Tamiflu should be rationed to younger adults, Italian scientists said
in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases.
Meanwhile, an expert warned the Army could be called in to keep the
country going if the pandemic escalates.
Virologist Nigel Dimmock, University of Warwick Emeritus Professor,
said a worker shortage could mean Britain "would begin to creak or
even grind to a halt".