Who Gets Life-Saving Care? Doctors Face Ethical Questions

"Is it inevitable that we will become overwhelmed? I'm not sure."

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With coronavirus cases on the rise in North Texas, doctors are facing the real possibility they may have to choose who gets life-saving care and who doesn't.

It's the ethical question being asked around the country as hospitals in hot zones quickly run out of Intensive Care Unit beds and supplies.

Inside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, 250 hospital beds have been set up as overflow space in the event that local hospitals become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

That possibility is forcing doctors to prepare for tough choices ahead.

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The newly formed North Texas Mass Critical Care Council has outlined new guidelines on who will get live-saving care, and who won't, when demand exceeds supply.

Critically ill patients will be scored based on their medical factors and who will most likely benefit from ICU interventions.

The decisions won't be made based on a patient's gender, race, religion, social status or ability to pay.

"It's the same premise behind social distancing, the same premise behind staying home. Our singular objective is to do as much as we can for as many as we can to save as many lives as possible," Dallas County Medical Society President Dr. Mark Casanova said.

Casanova said healthcare leaders in Collin, Tarrant, Denton and Dallas counties have agreed to follow the guidelines -- set in place now to help eliminate concerns of discrimination down the road.

It's a road which doctors hope not to take.

"Is it inevitable that we will become overwhelmed? I'm not sure," Casanova said. "We are hoping and praying for the best but we would be remiss if we were not preparing for the worst."

The council said it also looked at a first-come, first-served approach, but said evidence showed more lives would be lost and more discrimination would occur under that model.

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