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28 May, 2020 15:31

Unforgivably cruel: Swedish directives on how to treat Covid-19 elderly have caused massive death toll

Unforgivably cruel: Swedish directives on how to treat Covid-19 elderly have caused massive death toll

Sweden’s lack of a coherent strategy on treating coronavirus has caused needless suffering among old people, and the media seems unwilling to expose the failures.

In early April, in an interview with Svenska Dagbladet, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven admitted: “Sweden has not succeeded in protecting its elderly.” He asked the country to prepare itself for thousands of deaths due to Covid-19, a prediction that has sadly come true. 

The prime minister’s statement saddened me. As a doctor, I do my best to protect my patients, regardless of age. But I cannot possibly condone the official directives issued on how to protect the elderly.

The world at large should know about these directives, as they provide insight into what has happened in Sweden with regard to the care of Covid-19 patients.

In trying to understand what has gone on, it is also important that people are aware there are certain primary ethics which doctors swear to uphold while treating patients as people.

There is a proper perspective for medical knowledge, which is why, for example, I refuse to “care-plan” the 2000+ patients that are under my supervision. They trust me to do everything I can to save their lives. This is why I find the Swedish directives to be absolutely abhorrent.

The directives are, essentially, asking me to get rid of anyone who is sick. Is it ethical to instruct doctors to first prescribe morphine, rather than oxygen? Is it ethical to deny elderly patients oxygen in most situations? How would you feel on finding out that your parent in a care home will not be given critical care, or curative care, or oxygen therapy, because they are deemed irrelevant? Why is this the case? As Sweden has five factories producing oxygen, supplying oxygen outside of a hospital setting should not be an issue.

Also on rt.com Shameful treatment of the elderly is further proof Sweden got its Covid-19 strategy all wrong

Letting the elderly die

Horror stories have played out across the country. At Karolinska University hospital in Stockholm, one doctor told the Dagens Nyheter daily that triage has been made so difficult that “we are being forced to let patients die in front of our eyes.”

Another Swedish newspaper, Aftonbladet, saw official documents instructing that patients aged 60 and above with multiple conditions, and all those aged above 80, should be denied intensive care, even though Sweden apparently has plenty of ICU beds.

And there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of an unacceptable number of deaths occurring without medical attendance. What is the strategy behind this?

Even the basic approach is muddled. Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell claimed herd immunity is not a policy but an achievable status, despite the World Health Organization saying it is highly sceptical about such a strategy. Yet Tegnell was quoted as saying: “We want as few people to get infected as possible, at a slow pace, so the health system can cope.”

In addition, wearing masks, gloves or other protective equipment in public has not been recommended.

Tragedy of the victims

It’s only when you hear the stories of the victims that the scale of this scandal is really apparent. 96-year-old Eva Alinder died in a care home, because staff refused to take her to the hospital. Her daughter Catharina was told Eva was “too old”.

She was left to choke, gasping for air all night, until she died. The only treatment staff offered was an aspirin and leaving the window open. Her daughter tried to get her tested for Covid-19, but this didn’t happen because there was no time and no staff available. To add insult to injury, Eva will not even be included in Sweden’s Covid-19 death toll because she wasn’t taken to hospital.

Catharina said: “They let my mother suffer for so many hours without oxygen, without being admitted to a hospital. She worked all her life, paid taxes, and this is the thanks she got. She was down to 60 percent breathing capacity. It was horrible for me and my sister to see her suffer in her last 24 hours.”

81-year-old Hanna Altinsu did not have underlying medical conditions, but when he caught Covid-19 and his symptoms worsened, he was denied respiratory care despite available ICU beds outside Stockholm. Turkey even airlifted 47-year-old citizen Emrullah Gulusken back home rather than have him treated in Sweden.

To get an even clearer idea of what’s gone on, I interviewed Latifa Lofvenberg for a witness statement, which I shared on my Youtube channel. Latifa is a nurse who worked in a government-funded care home in Gavleborg, but is no longer employed there due to speaking out about what she witnessed.

She told of old people being left to choke to death for days on end, and of being instructed to administer morphine and a muscle relaxer, midazolam, which helps relieve anxiety while the patients slowly suffocate.

If an elderly patient eventually loses the fight with Covid-19, I believe it is far more humane to let them die of narcosis and carbon dioxide after we have done our best to save them, rather than resorting primarily to morphine and breathing complications, while denying them oxygen.

So when our politicians say they’ve done everything imaginable to decrease fatalities, it is a blatant lie.

Also on rt.com So one Swedish academic quotes another Swedish academic on flaws of Sweden's Covid-19 policy... and that’s RUSSIAN propaganda?

Deafening media silence

What is also clear is that pointing out the failings is unwelcome. Scientists with relevant criticism of integral elements of Sweden’s strategy have been dismissed by the mainstream media. Instead of answering their criticism, the media has even called them nation-saboteurs.

These academics have been forced to turn to international outlets to be heard. For instance, Professor Cecilia Soderberg-Naucler, a virus-immunology researcher at the Karolinska Institute, had to turn to The Guardian. Professor emeritus of Public-Science Epidemiology, Marcello Ferrada de Noli, had his critical opinion pieces about the treatment of the elderly published on RT.com.

Norwegian state epidemiologist, Frode Forland, has confirmed that Swedish outlets do not seem interested in publishing in-depth critical opinions of Sweden’s strategy. He explained his experience with the Swedish media: “I’ve been interviewed by several of them, and they all ask questions about things supporting Sweden’s strategy. It feels like they want to support their own government, but Sweden is going against the entire world on this.”

I suppose it is for this reason Swedish experts in virology felt compelled to speak out about Anders Tegnell’s epidemiological deeds in a secret e-mail thread, rather than going public with their thoughts.

The truth is that Covid-19 is not a terminal illness. It is treatable and not intractable in first-world countries, despite the lack of a vaccine. It does not have to be a death sentence for the elderly. The lives of people are not statistics, sound bites or experiments. What are Sweden’s real mortality rates? And is herd immunity through natural infections the method to pursue?

The highest number of Covid-19 deaths per capita in Europe and the current approach to treating Sweden’s elderly is nothing to be proud of. In fact, it should be loudly condemned.

I am in the profession of saving lives, not politics. But confronted with horrible truths, I cannot save lives unless something changes urgently and completely. By exposing the ongoing policies in the country’s care homes and holding accountable those who are inflicting criminal human rights violations through these absurd directives, we can help everyone in Sweden.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.