The reality of intensive care
Sir,– The broad-minded, lateral thinking of the Unthinkable column is often a challenge to stale opinions or shaky assumptions. The ideas articulated by Matthew Collins may, however, be dangerous in their implications, and need to be placed in a real world context (“The left’s lockdown critique: right on, or dangerous prattle?”, Life, January 21st).
Asking if current restrictions would have to be so severe “if we had redirected corporate profit into ICU capacity” is a question that assumes severe illness is a straightforward event, in the presence of sufficient resources.
Current restrictions aim to allow intensive-care units to handle the overwhelming demands of the pandemic. This, in principle, aims to render a fatal illness survivable. The toll on patients from such experience is life-changing, however. Loss of muscle strength, post-traumatic stress, and the protracted need for feeding and breathing tubes are common. Without the present restrictions, much of the demand for life-support would be unmet, with rapidly fatal consequences. Even in an entirely counterfactual discussion, these realities should be emphasised. – Yours, etc,