A shortage of medical supplies and hospital beds in Italy is forcing doctors to choose which coronavirus patients to save - and they're choosing the young.

Italy coronavirus

REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

Military officers wearing face masks stand outside Duomo cathedral, closed by authorities due to a coronavirus outbreak, in Milan, Italy February 24, 2020.

  • A shortage of medical supplies and hospital beds in Italy is forcing doctors to have to choose which coronavirus patients to save.
  • Right now, the young and otherwise healthy are treated as priority.
  • Italy is on lockdown as more than 9,000 people have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As the number of coronavirus patients continue to rise in Italy, with a majority of the cases in Lombardy, anesthesiologists and doctors are being forced to make tough calls about who to treat first, according to Politico.

Right now, doctors are prioritizing the young, and otherwise healthy, because they have the greatest chance of survival, Politico reported.Advertisement

"We do not want to discriminate," Luigi Riccioni, an anesthesiologist and head of the ethical committee of Siiarti, told Politico. "We are aware that the body of an extremely fragile patient is unable to tolerate certain treatments compared to that of a healthy person."

Riccioni co-authored new guidelines on how to prioritize treatment of coronavirus cases in hospitals.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte put all of Italy under strict lockdown from Tuesday onward after the country's infections zoomed past 9,100 on Monday.
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The country's 60 million citizens now face restrictions on all aspects of life, including retail, leisure, worship, and travel.

In hospitals, workers are scrambling to meet the demand, and increase the number of beds available in intensive care units, according to Politico.Doctors, some of whom are picking up the extra shifts of colleagues who have fallen ill, are under high pressure. Advertisement

In an interview in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera Monday, anesthesiologist Christian Salaroli compared the situation in hospitals to wartime.

"We decide based on age, and on health conditions. Just like all war situations," he told the paper in Italian. "It's not me that decides, but the book manuals we studied."

Salaroli went on to say that if a patient comes into the hospital with severe respiratory failure, it's likely that the doctor "won't go ahead" with treatment.Advertisement

Business Insider's Claudia Romeo provided translation for this article.

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