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Swiss medical society urges elderly to consider Will

by OtownGist

If you do get coronavirus, what sort of medical intervention do you want? This is the debate in Switzerland, as infections rise sharply.

The Swiss Society for Intensive Medicine says the elderly should think about drawing up living wills, and discuss with their loved ones whether they want to be put on ventilators.

It sounds shocking, but Switzerland is the country of Exit and Dignitas, and it is widely accepted that individuals have the right to decide how they die.

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A third of Swiss already have living wills, so families know their wishes in the event of serious illness or injury.


The news from Italy, of elderly people dying alone after days on ventilators, has caused alarm.

Dr Roland Kunz, a gerontologist, says statistics show that if an elderly coronavirus patient with underlying health conditions ends up on a ventilator, the chances of survival are “vanishingly small”.

This section of the population, he believes, should have the chance to opt for care at home, and mobile palliative care teams are available.

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This debate does not please everyone here, some view it as unnecessary pressure on the elderly at an already difficult time.

But this is not, Swiss doctors insist, about freeing up intensive care beds for younger people.

The triage guidelines in Switzerland have already been drawn up: if there are more patients than beds, the doctors will decide, based on who is most likely to survive.

But the elderly should, at least, have a chance to indicate, in advance, what kind of treatment they do or don’t want.

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