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Detroit health system warns coronavirus treatment may be stopped if patients 'do not improve'

Detroit health system warns coronavirus treatment may be stopped if patients 'do not improve'
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A major hospital system in Detroit confirmed it may be forced to decide which patients would receive life-saving treatment for COVID-19 if there are not enough resources.

Henry Ford Health System confirmed the accuracy of a letter circulating online outlining how doctors would make decisions at the Michigan hospital network about who gets treated during the COVID-19 crisis with limited resources.

"Because of shortages, we will need to be careful with resources. Patients who have the best chance of getting better are our first priority," the letter said. 

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"Some patients will be extremely sick and very unlikely to survive their illness even with critical treatment. Treating these patients would take away resources for patients who might survive,” it continued.

The organization said the letter was "part of a larger policy document developed for an absolute worst-case scenario," and they have not needed to use it. The health system had 376 coronavirus patients hospitalized in its facilities as of Friday morning, according to its website.

"With a pandemic of this nature, health systems must be prepared for a worst case scenario," the organization said. "These guidelines are deeply patient focused ... it is our hope we never have to apply them and we will always do everything we can to care for our patients."

The policy was not shared with patients, but was shared with other health professionals in Michigan.

Health systems nationwide have been grappling with shortages of equipment like masks and ventilators as the number of COVID-19 patients grows rapidly. 

The letter said that in the event of a shortage, patients with severe heart, lung, kidney or liver failure, severe trauma or burns, or terminal cancers may be ineligible for a ventilator or intensive care. 

These patients will instead receive "pain control and comfort measures."

"This decision will be based on medical condition and likelihood of getting better," the letter said.