REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Single title

Who Gets the Last Ventilator?

Interview with Professor Christian Jung and Professor Bertrand Guidet

A German-French discussion about the allocation of intensive care resources in times of COVID-19.

At a Glance

Intensive care medicine is not normally an issue which raises much public attention. However, that has changed with the COVID-19 pandemic. The outbreak has put healthcare systems in general and inten-sive care units (ICU) in particular under enormous pressure. Conflicts of decision-making in so-called triage situations raise crucial questions: What should be done if the number of critically ill COVID 19-patients exceeds the available intensive care capacity? Which criteria should apply to decide who gets admitted to the intensive care unit – and who does not? What kind of guidance do physicians, patients and their family members need and receive?

Two intensive care specialists, German Professor Christian Jung and French Professor Bertrand Guidet, talk about their experiences with COVID-19 and lessons we should learn from the pandemic in the field of intensive care medicine. Their provisional conclusion is: criteria for the prioritisation of patients need broad public discussion and ultimately democratic endorsement.

Furthermore, confidence in a legal system that guides and supports decision-making in this extreme situation, appears to be crucial for physicians as well as for patients and their family members. A broad public debate about issues such as individual patients’ rights, solidarity, distributive justice and effi-ciency in the health care system as well as about the tension between an egalitarian and a utilitarian approach to intensive care medicine should start as soon as possible.” These questions are too im-portant for our society to be left solely to the medical professional.”


Read our complete interview here as PDF.