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Houston works out plan for flu pandemic

Oct. 11, 2011 at 2:29 PM

HOUSTON, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Some critically ill Houston-area patients could be removed from ventilators during a flu epidemic, a draft plan being worked out by health officials provides.

Officials say the plan would be used only if there is a pandemic like the 1918 influenza outbreak that killed at least 50 million people worldwide, the Houston Chronicle reported Monday. Doctors would likely be dealing with a severe shortage of ventilators and other equipment for patients with life-threatening respiratory problems.

The Harris County Health Department has created a draft plan to prioritize which patients are put on the life-sustaining equipment.

"In a severe pandemic, we'd need to triage patients into one of three categories," Dr. Herminia Palacio, director of the Harris County Health Department, told the newspaper. "In broad terms: Is the patient healthy enough to improve without a ventilator? Is the patient too sick to benefit from a ventilator? Is the patient sick enough to need a ventilator and stand to get better because of it?"

Lisa Dahm, a healthcare lawyer and part-time law professor, suggested those drafting the plan should also press for legislation in Texas that would relieve doctors of the responsibility of providing care for terminally ill patients in certain emergency situations.

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