The concept of triage describes a system of categorizing patients in which the most hopeless cases are no longer treated. It comes into play when treatment capacities are limited and doctors must make choices about who to treat.
In December last year, the Federal Constitutional Court ordered the government to take immediate precautions to protect disabled people during the pandemic-related triage. Otherwise, it is to be feared that they would be disadvantaged in the allocation of intensive care treatment resources, the judges explained. Several people with disabilities and previous illnesses had complained. The draft law now stipulates that doctors can only make decisions based on the current and short-term probability of survival of the affected patients.
Baehrens reported that the "difficult law" was discussed "intensively". "We can be very satisfied with the result because we will take the necessary protective measures that Karlsruhe has called for in a balanced and targeted manner and will evaluate their effects."
It was particularly important "to include all questions of discrimination - for example age, skin color or the like - in addition to the criterion 'disability'," explained the health politician.
The Bundestag will vote on the draft law in the afternoon. It is "the first law that we are likely to pass in the German Bundestag, which we hope will never be applied," said Baehrens, referring to emergencies in which triage could occur. "Our goal is to do everything we can to ensure that such bottlenecks in intensive care do not arise in the first place and that no allocation decisions have to be made," added the social democrat.
The Green health politician Janosch Dahmen defended the proposal against criticism from associations for the disabled and intensive care physicians. A draft law has been drawn up "that takes all the different perspectives and concerns into account in a balanced way," he said on Thursday in the ARD "Morgenmagazin". The criterion of short-term probability of survival ensures that nobody is disadvantaged. Dahmen was confident that the law will also stand up to judicial scrutiny.
"We gave the people out there the certainty that nobody has to be afraid for their loved ones or for themselves that the plug is pulled from the ventilator when they are in intensive care," said Dahmen. The law excludes such cases.
Medical President Klaus Reinhardt, on the other hand, criticized the draft as insufficient. In addition to the criterion of the short-term probability of survival, the medical indication and the patient's wishes should also have been taken into account, the President of the German Medical Association told the editorial network Germany. "Without such clarification, the reference in the explanatory memorandum to the law that the final responsibility for the assessment of medical matters lies with the doctors will tend to unsettle them even more."