Some U.S. hospitals weigh withholding care to Ebola patients

Barbara Smith, a registered nurse with Mount Sinai Medical Health Systems, St. Luke's and Roosevelt Hospitals in New York, demonstrates putting on personal protective equipment (PPE) during an Ebola educational session for healthcare workers at the Jacob Javits Convention center in New York, October 21, 2014.  REUTERS/Mike Segar

The Ebola crisis is forcing the American healthcare system to consider the previously unthinkable: withholding some medical interventions because they are too dangerous to doctors and nurses and unlikely to help a patient.

U.S. hospitals have over the years come under criticism for undertaking measures that prolong dying rather than improve patients’ quality of life.

But the care of the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States, who received dialysis and intubation and infected two nurses caring for him, is spurring hospitals and medical associations to develop the first guidelines for what can reasonably be done and what should be withheld.

Officials from at least three hospital systems interviewed by Reuters said they were considering whether to withhold individual procedures or leave it up to individual doctors to determine whether an intervention would be performed.

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