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Alzheimer Europe rings the alarm about discriminatory practices in intensive care settings during the COVID-19 pandemic

Friday 03 April 2020

At an online meeting organised by Alzheimer Europe, representatives from 22 national Alzheimer’s associations from 19 European countries adopted a call to governments and national health systems to urgently increase the infrastructure for intensive care needed for people affected by COVID-19 and to ensure any access or withdrawal regulations to life-saving treatment are based on sound ethical principles which do not discriminate against people with dementia.

In its position adopted on 3 April, Alzheimer Europe considers it unacceptable to systematically restrict access to ventilators during the COVID-19 pandemic to people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia or people living in nursing homes. Where triage decisions become necessary, these should always be based on a patient’s individual prognosis and not solely be based on a person’s age, diagnosis or place of residence.

In addition, the association stresses the need:

  • to take into consideration a person’s expressed wishes, such as those expressed in an advance directive,
  • to adhere to palliative care principles and guidelines,
  • to develop clear medical protocols where triage decisions are taken by a team of healthcare professionals with expertise in intensive and palliative care,
  • to regularly review and properly document any such triage decisions.

Commenting on the position, Helen Rochford-Brennan, chairperson of the European Working of People with Dementia, said: “I am grateful to Alzheimer Europe for coordinating this important response which is in line with the organisation’s commitment to a human rights based approach to dementia. Many people are able to live long and meaningful lives with dementia with a good quality of life. A diagnosis of dementia should never be a reason to be refused treatment, care or support”.

The full position of Alzheimer Europe is online here: https://www.alzheimer-europe.org/Policy/Our-opinion-on/Triage-decisions-during-COVID-19-pandemic

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