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February 13, 2007

UK: "Doctors will need guns"

Via the Times Online, a comment by Dr. Andrew Lawson:
If bird flu grips the nation, doctors will need guns
. Excerpt:

Towards the end of the film Dr Strangelove, Peter Sellers discusses who will go into the mines to survive. A surreal echo came for myself and colleagues recently when we were in discussions about planning for a bird flu pandemic in the UK as part of an ethics committee.

If a true pandemic of bird flu hits these shores then our notions of what we can expect from the National Health Service will have to change. Some people will have to be denied potentially life-saving treatment: there simply will not be enough beds.

Managing such a pandemic is unimaginable. While it is possible to work out what will happen if a bomb goes off in central London — we can empty intensive care units, mobilise extra staff and stop elective work — what we cannot plan for is 200,000 extra patients who need a life support machine.

Arnie Schwarzenegger, the governor of California, says his state will buy thousands more machines, but who will man them? A gut reaction is to blame the government for underresourcing. It is true that we have a chronic underinvestment in intensive care compared with the United States, Australia or other European countries. In any normal situation such a criticism would be valid, but in a pandemic it becomes a statistical irrelevancy.

Posted by dymaxion at February 13, 2007 09:30 PM

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