The top court in Germany ruled in late December that the country’s parliament is obliged to establish rules to protect the disabled from falling victim to the triage decisions made by doctors in overcrowded hospitals in pandemic conditions.
The term “triage” reached broad public use gradually over a period of decades after its start in the world of combat medicine. “Triage” refers to the division of potential patients into three groups. In crisis conditions the most badly hurt likely cannot be helped with the resources available: all that can be done for them involves looking after their comfort in their final moments. The least badly hurt can wait longer. This means that the high-priority group is the middle group: those who are still well enough to benefit from help, yet damaged enough to need it quickly, get priority treatment.
Currently, more than 19 percent of German ICU beds are occupied by Covid patients, and the fear is that overcrowding creates triage decisions not just for the Covid patients but for anyone.
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A group of disabled persons brought this lawsuit, objecting that they might be left untreated by a hospital applying triage procedures due to the pressures of the pandemic surge in that country. The Federal Constitutional Court agreed, saying that the situation violates Germany’s constitution. It ordered the legislature to write explicit protection.