But in the rest of hard-hit northern Italy, the virus’ spread was growing so exponentially that doctors were making comparisons to war-time triage medics deciding who lives, who dies and who gets access to the limited number of ICU beds.

“It’s a reasoning that our colleagues make,” Dr. Guido Giustetto, head of the association of doctors in northern Piedmont, said Monday. “It becomes dramatic if, rather than doing it under normal situations, they do it because the beds are so scarce that someone might not have access to medical care.”

The Italian society of anesthesiology and intensive care published 15 ethical recommendations to consider when deciding on ICU admissions during the virus crisis and the ICU shortage. The criteria include the age of the patient and the probability of survival, and not just “first come first served.”