“We are also seeing that general practitioners are pressured into sending patients into the hospitals, with some families also threatening them with legal proceedings if they refuse [to recommend hospitalisation],” an ICU doctor in another Liège hospital told La Libre.
In mid-March, the Belgian Society of Intensive Care Medicine published ethical guidelines to steer decisions how to use hospital resources, reportedly at the request of federal authorities as the number of confirmed cases of the virus soared.
Reacting to news of the legal proceedings, medical law specialist Flip Dewallens said that, given the current circumstances, the claims had little chance of success.
“Doctors behave carefully when following the guidelines of the Crisis Centre and its scientific associations,” Dewallens said. “Judges also realise that the care in the event of shortages [of medical equipment and supplies] is different than in optimal circumstances.”
But Dewalles said that a claim still faced “those who give the best of themselves, day and night” with a “harsh” liability procedure, calling on the government to issue a power of attorney decision to give health professionals immunity as they “adhere to the scientific guidelines” to navigate the coronavirus pandemic with limited staff and resources.