COVID-19 and shortage of ventilation equipment: ethical and legal advice

In this scientific advisory report which offers guidance to public health policy-makers, emergency physicians, anesthetists, intensivists and the hospitals’ ethics committees, the Superior Health Council, in consultation with members of the Belgian Advisory Committee on Bioethics, provides an expert opinion and recommendations on the legal and ethical issues related to the use of a single ventilator for several patients in the event of a shortage during the COVID-19 epidemic.
The recommendations expressed in this advisory report were drafted in April 2020, at the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 epidemic, at a time when the overcrowding of hospitals and, more specifically, of intensive care units raised fears of a possible shortage of ventilators to treat patients. At the time of publication of this advisory report, during the second wave of the COVID-19 epidemic (November 2020), there are fears of other shortages and the risk of overwhelming hospitals: beds, doctors, nursing staff, etc.
Nevertheless, most of the main ethical principles and recommendations of this advisory report can be adapted and applied to other cases of shortages or overcrowding, in order to guide the decisions on prioritising access to healthcare.
(Only available in Dutch or French)