The Italian document: decisions for intensive care when there is an imbalance between care needs and resources during the COVID‑19 pandemic Luigi Riccioni1*

Gabrio Forti, Luigi Riccioni1, Francesca Ingravallo2, Giacomo Grasselli3, Davide Mazzon4, Emiliano Cingolani1, Riccardo Zoja7 and Flavia Petrini Vladimiro Zagrebelsky6

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In early 2020, the Italian Society of Anesthesia Analgesia Resuscitation and Intensive Care (SIAARTI) published clinical ethics recommendations for the allocation of intensive care during COVID-19 pandemic emergency. Later the Italian National Institute of Health (ISS) invited SIAARTI and the Italian Society of Legal and Insurance Medicine to prepare a draft document for the definition of triage criteria for intensive care during the emergency, to be implemented in case of complete saturation of care resources. Methods: Following formal methods, including two Delphi rounds, a multidisciplinary group with expertise in intensive care, legal medicine and law developed 12 statements addressing: (1) principles and responsibilities; (2) triage; (3) previously expressed wishes; (4) reassessment and shifting to palliative care; (5) collegiality and transparency of decisions. The draft of the statements, with their explanatory comments, underwent a public consultation opened to Italian scientific or technical-professional societies and other stakeholders (i.e., associations of citizens, patients and caregivers; religious communities; industry; public institutions; universities and research institutes). Individual healthcare providers, lay people, or other associations could address their comments by e-mail. Results: Eight stakeholders (including scientific societies, ethics organizations, and a religious community), and 8 individuals (including medical experts, ethicists and an association) participated to the public consultation. The stakeholders’ agreement with statements was on average very high (ranging from 4.1 to 4.9, on a scale from 1—full disagreement to 5—full agreement). The 4 statements concerning triage stated that in case of saturation of care resources, the intensive care triage had to be oriented to ensuring life-sustaining treatments to as many patients as possible who could benefit from them. The decision should follow full assessment of each patient, taking into account comorbidities, previous functional status and frailty, current clinical condition, likely impact of intensive treatment, and the patient’s wishes. Age should be considered as part of the global assessment of the patient. Conclusions: Lacking national guidelines, the document is the reference standard for healthcare professionals in case of imbalance between care needs and available resources during a COVID-19 pandemic in Italy, and a point of reference for the medico-legal assessment in cases of dispute.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Intensive Care
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • COVID-19,
  • Pandemic
  • Resource allocation,
  • Triage


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