Coronavirus doctors in France faced with 'temptation of euthanasia'
Doctors facing ‘temptation of euthanasia’: French medic warns of terrible decision facing staff in coronavirus hit care homes while Spanish doctors are ‘ordered to stop using ventilators for patients older than 80’
- In Spain there have been 130,759 reported cases, with 4,591 deaths
- In France, 89,953 people have had or have the virus, with 7,560 people dying
- Spanish politician Alfons Lopez Tena said morphine used to avoid ‘futility of health care’
- In France, Dr Bernard Devalois said there’s ‘temptation of euthanasia’
Doctors in European countries including Spain and France are reportedly turning to euthanasia to ease the burden of coronavirus on already-overwhelmed health services.
In both Spain and France, deaths from coronavirus have ballooned above the official number of dead in China, where the outbreak first began.
In Spain, there have been 130,759 reported cases, with 4,591 deaths, while in France, 89,953 people have had or have the virus, with 7,560 succumbing to it so far.
And despite the use of euthanasia being illegal in both countries, doctors have said there is a ‘temptation’ for it to be used.
Spanish doctors are also reportedly being told not to use ventilators on patients older than 80.
Doctors in European countries including Spain and France are reportedly turning to euthanasia to ease the burden of coronavirus on already-overwhelmed health services. Pictured: A French doctor wears a mask as he speaks on the phone in Tours, western France
In Spain, a former member of Catalonia’s parliament claimed some elderly patients and those with pre-existing conditions are being given morphine to avoid the ‘futility of health care’.
Alfons Lopez Tena wrote in a tweet: ‘Catalonia’s govt decides to let die coronavirus patients who have “less years to live”, [and recommends] no “admissions in hospital of patients with little benefit”.
‘Elders and those with pre-existing conditions will be given morphine to avoid “futility of health care”,’ he added.
North-east Spain’s Catalonia region has nearly 24,000 cases of COVID-19 and admissions to intensive care units have tripled in recent weeks.
Yahoo news reported that according to regional newspaper LaVanguardia, the document cited by Mr Tena also recommends that medics do not use ventilators for patients older than 80.
In both Spain and France, deaths from coronavirus have ballooned above the official number of dead in China, where the outbreak first began. Pictured: Mortuary workers wear face masks and gloves as they carry a coffin in Madrid yesterday
It reportedly adds that patients who are extremely ill should be allowed to die at home rather than being taken to hospital.
And in France, Dr Bernard Devalois, a palliative care doctor in Bordeaux, warned that with reports of shortages of morphine and the drug midazolam – which when used together help soothe the end of life – there would be a ‘temptation of euthanasia’ in care homes where staff are faced with the terrible suffering of asphyxia.
Shortages are reportedly meaning that extremely ill coronavirus sufferers are faced with an agonising death.
Professor Olivier Guerin, who heads the French Gerontology and Geriatrics Society (SFGG), said medics are faced with choosing who to resuscitate.
‘Making the choice of who should be resuscitated is what intensive care teams do all the time,’ he said.
And Dr Thibaud Soumagne, a lung specialist who works in an intensive care unit in Besancon near the Swiss border, explained that resuscitation is sometimes ‘not beneficial in the long run’ for patients with extreme breathing problems.
‘We would be making them suffer for nothing,’ he added.
Professor Regis Aubry, a former head of the French Palliative Care Society (SFAP), who is working in a special COVID-19 unit in another hospital in eastern France, said with victims dying without the comfort of friends and family – for fear of infection – they had to make their end of life as comfortable as possible.
‘Just because we are in an emergency situation, we should not forget about being humane,’ he told AFP.
SFAP has set up a hotline to advise staff in old people’s homes, where more than 2,000 have died in France since the epidemic began.
The society said the homes should be given greater medical support for palliative care as others have called for the lifting of restrictions on the use of certain drugs outside hospitals.
In Spain, Alfons Lopez Tena, a former member of Catalonia’s parliament claimed some elderly patients and those with pre-existing conditions are being given morphine to avoid the ‘futility of health care’
Mobile palliative care units are also being set up in some parts of the country.
Dr Devalois said the breathing difficulties that come with severe COVID-19 caused great anguish, and patients may need to be treated with anti-anxiety drugs like alprazolam (Xanax) and prazepam (Lysanxia) when they can still take them orally.
But when they are suffering from asphyxia they need to be profoundly sedated quickly, he added.
Dr Devalois argued that the authorities must ask hospital pharmacies to send sufficient supplies of drugs like midazolam to old people’s homes, that normally don’t have access to them.
He said carers’ mission must be to ensure that victims do not have horrible deaths.
With up to a third of the deaths from the virus in France happening in old people’s homes, Professor Claude Jeandel, head of the national group of geriatric practitioners, said care assistants should be given access to drugs recommended by the SFAP.
He said they were need to soften the distress of ‘asphyxia for the very many residents who will not be hospitalised and who will die in the homes.’
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