Italian doctor proposes putting age limit on hospital beds during coronavirus crush

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in Italy has jumped in the last 24 hours by 196 to 827 as a top Italian doctor said intensive care wards should place an age limit on beds.

Rather than admit patients on a ‘first come first served’ basis, hospitals should swap to ‘catastrophe medicine’ guidelines – typically used in war zones and during natural disasters – where those with the greatest chance of survival are given priority.

The guidelines should apply to all patients needing intensive care treatment and not just those suffering from coronavrius, according to guidance published this week by the Society of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care (SAARI).

If a limit on beds is implemented it could mean elderly patients with no signs of coronavirus being turfed off ICU wards to make space for younger patients who have longer left to live.