War medicine in Lombardy and the doctors’ dilemma

War medicine in Lombardy and the doctors’ dilemma
War medicine in Lombardy and the doctors’ dilemma

A study on war medicine in Lombardy during the first wave of the pandemic is being published. Divided into 3 phases: February 20-March 13, March 14-April 25, April 26-July 2. It was done on all 43,538 hospitalized patients. It was made by scientifically flawless institutions which are therefore reliable sources: the reference doctors of all Lombard hospitals, Bocconi University, Indiana University, Boston University, the Bruno Kessler Foundation.

In Lombardy, the dead were 17,000 in those months. And here the numbers become people. And you need to know what is defined by the expression “war medicine”. When in war, lives are not all the same. When you are at war, and the doctor has no means or ways to immediately treat everyone effectively, ethics obliges him to choose who to save. He has to choose who is most likely to survive.

I know, it makes an impression. We Westerners are children observing the principle according to which every life is worth the whole of humanity and every life has the same, shining, value.

The places in intensive care, in that terrible second phase of the First Wave in Lombardy, were tripled with an absolute effort, there were 1381 those dedicated to covid patients (almost 8 out of 10). But they weren’t enough. Half of those over 70 were hospitalized. But only 1 in 5 had access to intensive care, in the terrible second phase.

Not so in the first, not so in the third, when the proportion of elderly people between ward and intensive care returned the same (half of all hospitalized). I think of those doctors at the front, in the wards overflowing with pain and terror, without certain protocols, with few protective tools, exhausted personnel, dead colleagues. And I think of the precise moment in which they had to look an old man in the eye, an old woman, and decide whether to save him, her or the fifty-year-old from the next bed.
Only those who have been hospitalized know what a Covid ward is, or the moment when they tell you that they will fall asleep and you ask if you will wake up.

But I can’t get out of my mind those doctors who had to choose which life to save. They did it out of duty, they did it on the basis of statistical reason. They certainly saved more sick people. But each of those elders was their mom, their dad, their big brother. And I think every one of those doctors has them tattooed on their heart.

It must never happen again.

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