Florida health officials are drawing up guidelines that recommend barring patients with incurable cancer, end-stage multiple sclerosis and other conditions from being admitted to hospitals if the state is overwhelmed by flu cases.
The plan, which would guide Florida hospitals on how to ration scarce medical care during a severe flu outbreak, also calls for doctors to remove patients with poor prognoses from ventilators to treat those who have better chances of surviving. That decision would be made by the hospital.
The flu causes severe respiratory illnesses in a small percentage of cases, and patients who need ventilators and are deprived of them could die without the breathing assistance the machines provide.
In June, Florida Surgeon General Ana M. Viamonte Ros sent the draft guidelines — which had already undergone a series of internal revisions — to 16 state medical organizations for their feedback.
But the state has not yet publicized the guidelines or solicited input from the general public. The Florida Department of Health released a copy of the draft plan at the request of ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization, which provided it to the Sun Sentinel.
The document addresses one of the most heart-rending issues in medicine: What to do if the number of people in need of ventilators and other treatment dramatically exceeds what is available.
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