Flu Plan Directs Docs to Take Sickest Off Life Support

Plan could grant legal exemption to extreme rationing in case of disaster pandemic
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 24, 2009 7:00 PM CDT
In this photo taken June 3, 2009, Kerry Wentworth,background center, comforts a wounded US soldier at the emergency room of the hospital in Bagram Air base Afghanistan.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Authorities planning for a severe flu outbreak are drawing up rules for life-saving ventilators that instruct doctors to take severely ill patients off life support and give the equipment to those with a better chance of survival. The plan, to be used in an outbreak comparable to the pandemic that killed 50 million in 1918, is being drafted with little input from the public, ProPublica reports.

New York officials are exploring the legal basis for a suspension of the law that bars doctors from removing patients from life support in the case of a public-health emergency. The architects of the plan argue that, especially given the recent “death panel” controversy, it’s difficult to engage the public on this topic. But critics lament that societal input has been absent. “Maybe society will say: ‘We don’t agree with your plan,” said one doctor. “‘You may think it’s ethically OK; we don’t.’”