Bioethics in an oncological surgery unit during the COVID-19 pandemic: the Verona experience

Tuveri, M., Bassi, C., Esposito A.. Polati E., et al.
Bioethics in an oncological surgery unit during the COVID-19 pandemic: the Verona experience.
Updates Surg (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13304-022-01279-5

Abstract

The spread of COVID-19 has overwhelmed medical facilities across the globe, with patients filling beds in both regular wards and in intensive care units. The repurposing of hospital facilities has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the capacity of hospitals—in terms of available beds, surgical facilities, and medical and nursing staff— to care for oncology patients. The Italian National Board of Bioethics provided precise and homogeneous guidelines for the allocation of the scarce resources available. In our experience, strictly following these general guidelines and not considering the clinical vocation of each single health care center did not allow us to resume usual activities but generated further confusion in resource allocation. To face the scarcity of available resources and guarantee our patients fair access to the health care system we created a surgical triage with four fundamental steps. We took into consideration “ well defined and widely accepted clinical prognostic factors ” as stated by the Italian Society of Anesthesia and Resuscitation. We were able to draw up a list of patients giving priority to those who theoretically should have a greater chance of overcoming their critical situation. The age criterion has also been used in the overall evaluation of different cure options in each case, but it has never been considered on its own or outside the other clinical parameters. Although not considered acceptable by many we had to forcefully adopt the criterion of comparison between patients to give priority to those most in need of immediate care.

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