The specter of triage versus a crashed economy
Italy implemented harsh triage principles when its medical system was overwhelmed with a flood of COVID-19 patients, first denying medical treatment to those afflicted over seventy-five years. Without regard to an individual's physical age or lifestyle, seventy-five, and poof — one's elders' existence was declared disposable. The triage logic ordained that a younger patient had a greater likelihood of survival and a more productive life ahead.
Well, that didn't last long. As the system further collapsed, their triage threshold plummeted: no medical treatment, for COVID-19 sufferers, for anyone sixty or older. Obviously, the Italians didn't buy the meme that sixty is the new forty.
A crash of the United States' fragmented medical system is one of the fears that have compelled political leaders, in the majority of states, to shut down all but essential establishments.
Many scoff: it is our road to perdition, there will be no economy to which to return, these are the End Days of America as we know it; our constitution has been shredded while we creep toward dictatorship, and this is G-d's wrath and punishment for our evil ways.
Who knows? But to act otherwise would be to roll ethical dice that heretofore had only overtly rolled by America only during fogs of war. Otherwise, it is not in the American ethos to deliberately withhold or ration life-saving medical services. Yes, the far left insists that our current medical system routinely does just that. But, basically, we don't. It is a federal law that no individual can be denied emergency room services — regardless of ability to pay. Moreover, President Trump has decreed that all COVID-19 testing and disease treatment will be provided to all cost-free.
To a degree, in many states, triage has already been implemented, as all elective surgery has been canceled because dental and other medical specialty offices, such as dermatologists, have closed.
For those who assert that the shutdown was implemented for nefarious purposes, this author presents anecdotal counter-evidence. In Pennsylvania, I personally know five patients from my congregation who have required hospitalization from the virus. One was discharged, one was discharged only to be re-admitted, and three remain — one of the three on a ventilator. In my condominium, one resident was taken by ambulance to the hospital; in my extended family, one member was hospitalized in Connecticut, thankfully now recovered and at home.
It is impossible to know true data. The CDC cites a global death rate from the virus of approximately 5%; the United States death rate, to date, with state-by-state variations, hovers around 1.2%.
In addition in desperately attempting to avoid triage, our leaders are valiantly attempting to keep total deaths to a minimum.
Competing with these goals are those attempting to avert an economic catastrophe. It is likely that the states minimally affected will reopen first, followed by those tested and deemed immune, either through symptomless infection or full blown recovery.
Yes, it is a hellish time. But I'm placing my bets on an ethical, optimistic, marvelous America.
Cheers. L'Chaim. To life!