Swiss doctors have asked all over 60s and heart patients to sign ‘do not resuscitate’ forms to free up intensive care beds.
The call comes as the country is facing a second coronavirus wave that has seen a surge of infections in recent weeks.
Switzerland has seen cases rise from 100,000 a few weeks ago to 300,000, with nearly 9,800 new daily infections and the death toll over 4100.
The Swiss Society for Intensive Care Medicine called on the “especially imperiled” including the over 60s, or with health conditions like heart disease and diabetes, to put their wishes on paper.
“This will support your own relatives, but also the teams in the ICUs, as they make decisions so the treatment can be done in the best possible manner according to the individual patient wishes,” SGI said in a statement.
SGI president Thierry Fumeaux denied the group was aiming to put anyone under pressure or to free up beds – only to encourage them to think ahead.
“This is even more important in a time when vulnerable people are at high risk of having an infection, at high risk of being admitted to an ICU and at high risk of dying,” Fumeaux said.
“This is not a call for sacrifice. It’s just a call to take responsibility for their autonomy.”
Switzerland has long history of legal assisted suicide and is home to the Dignitas clinic where many terminally ill people from the UK go to die
Campaigners for the elderly Pro Senectute Schweiz condemned the move and said the doctors’ appeal was premature and excessive
“The SGI appeal takes place in the context of an absolute emergency situation in which Switzerland does not yet find itself in,” the group said.
Antonio Cuzzoli, head of intensive care at Italy’s Cremona Hospital until July, as Covid ripped through Lombardy in March and April, some patients committed “acts of heroism” by refusing treatment.
In the UK the Department of Health and Social Care asked the Care Quality Commission, to review how so-called ‘do not resuscitate’ decisions were conducted during the pandemic.
The review was launched in response to concerns the elderly and vulnerable were being subjected to decisions without their consent or given too little information to make an informed decision.
A cross-party group of MPs backed by Amnesty International is now calling for every order on care home residents’ files to be urgently reviewed.