Doctors are warning medical professionals in Italy to stop treating the elderly and focus on those with better survival chances. Italian hospitals are buckling under a surge of coronavirus patients, with the cases jumping from 196 to 827.
This has had caused a shortage of hospital beds in intensive care units or ICUs, resulting in doctors warning medics to shift their attention to people with better chances of surviving the coronavirus.
According to draft plans for the next phase of the crisis, Italian hospitals may soon have to deny intensive care treatment to people over 80, effectively leaving them to die.
The constant increase in patients means that demand for intensive care resources will surpass supply, written in the proposal by the civil protection department of the badly-hit northern region of Piedmont.
Italy is suffering the most number of cases in Europe with 2,158 people fatalities and 27,980 infected as of Monday. This is also the second-highest number of reported cases and deaths in the world behind China.
The plan to deny treatment for the elderly was set forth in a document drawn up by a crisis management team in Turin.
The most notorious medical crisis in Italy since World War II is forcing doctors, patients and their families to make decisions that even military doctors have not experienced even in the war.
Top doctors have said that intensive care wards should place an age limit on beds in order to prioritize medical resources.
The latest series of restrictions were declared by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in a dramatic appeal to the country of 60 million undergoing its biggest crisis in years.
More European countries are registering their first deaths of people with the new coronavirus.
Guidance published by a top Italian health agency has now suggested that rather than treat patients on a "first come first served" basis, hospitals should instead follow "catastrophe medicine" guidelines.
The document lays out guidelines for assessing who will be provided treatment once the tipping point is reached. Aside from people over 80, those already in poor health will be denied treatment.
"The criteria for access to intensive therapy in cases of emergency must include age of less than 80 or a score on the Charlson comorbidity index (measuring what other medical conditions the patient has) of less than 5," according to the document.
The document added, "The growth of the current epidemic makes it likely that a point of imbalance between the clinical needs of patients with COVID-19 and the effective availability of intensive resources will be reached.
While Lombardy is the hardest-hit region, neighboring Piedmont is also devastatingly affected with 180 new cases recorded in one day and deaths summing up to 27.
According to government sources, the document only needs approval from a technical-scientific committee then it will be sent to hospitals and the criteria is will be applied throughout the entire country.
A doctor said, "(Who lives and who dies) is decided by age and by the (patient's) health conditions. This is how it is in a war."