Spain’s Ministry of Health Prohibits Discriminating Against Age When Deciding Which Coronavirus Patients Enter the ICU


THE government has outlined a guide with conclusions and recommendations to help the staff with the decision-making process at hospitals.

The Ministry of Health has published a document regarding the ‘ethical aspects’ of the pandemic, in which it establishes that it is now prohibited to discriminate against patients on the basis of age when deciding who to incorporate into the Intensive Care Unit.

This contrasts, for example, the Generalitat de Catalunya’s advice to not admit patients over 80-years-old in the ICU.


The Ministry of Health believes that this pandemic, of incalculable magnitude, is putting immense strain on the healthcare systems of countries worldwide and in the process, it is creating very complex ethical issues.

For this reason, the government document aims to create a guide with recommendations to help the decision-making process in Spain’s hospitals.

Within these general recommendations, the government has noted that despite the collapse of hospitals, it is not possible to discriminate on the basis of age and that clinical criteria, not age, should be the deciding factor in the overall decision.

The scarcity of resources may require criteria to be prioritised but this criterion should always be based on objective, transparent and consensual facts, without prejudice to individual aspects of the patient such as age.

The document specifies that it is a moral imperative to provide healthcare professionals with clear and simple criteria so that these are not swayed by any objective information, as this will ensure routine and depersonalised decisions.


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