Ethical Challenges in Health Care Policy during COVID-19 Pandemic in Italy

Ethical Challenges in Health Care Policy during COVID-19 Pandemic in Italy
Davide Ferorelli, Gabriele Mandarelli, Biagio Solarino
Medicina, 11 December 2020
Open Access
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Italy has proven to be one of the countries with the highest coronavirus-linked death rate. To reduce the impact of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the Italian Government decision-makers issued a series of law decrees that imposed measures limiting social contacts, stopped non-essential production activities, and restructured public health care in order to privilege assistance to patients infected with SARS-CoV-2. Health care services were substantially limited including planned hospitalization and elective surgeries. These substantial measures were criticized due to their impact on individual rights including freedom and autonomy, but were justified by the awareness that hospitals would have been unable to cope with the surge of infected people who needed treatment for COVID-19. The imbalance between the need to guarantee ordinary care and to deal with the pandemic, in a context of limited health resources, raises ethical concerns as well as clinical management issues. The emergency scenario caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the lockdown phase, led the Government and health care decision-makers to prioritize community safety above the individuals’ rights. This new community-centered approach to clinical care has created tension among the practitioners and exposed health workers to malpractice claims. Reducing the morbidity and mortality rates of the COVID-19 pandemic is the priority of every government, but the legitimate question remains whether the policy that supports this measure could be less harmful for the health care system.

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