Israel Ad Hoc COVID-19 Committee: Guidelines for Care of Older Persons During a Pandemic

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2020 Jul;68(7):1370-1375. doi: 10.1111/jgs.16554. Epub 2020 May 23.


Early on, geriatricians in Israel viewed with increasing alarm the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). It was clear that this viral disease exhibited a clear predilection for and danger to older persons. Informal contacts began with senior officials from the country's Ministry of Health, the Israel Medical Association, and the country's largest health fund; this was done to plan an approach to the possible coming storm. A group was formed, comprising three senior geriatricians, a former dean, a palliative care specialist, and a lawyer/ethicist. The members made every effort to ensure that their recommendations would be practical while at the same time taking into account the tenets of medical ethics. The committee's main task was to think through a workable approach because intensive care unit/ventilator resources may be far outstripped by those requiring such care. Recommendations included the approach to older persons both in the community and in long-term care institutions, a triage instrument, and palliative care. Patient autonomy was emphasized, with a strong recommendation for people of all ages to update their advance directives or, if they did not have any, to quickly draw them up. Considering the value of distributive justice, with respect to triage, a "soft utilitarian" approach was advocated with the main criteria being function and comorbidity. Although chronological age was rejected as a sole criterion, in the case of an overwhelming crisis, "biological age" would enter into the triage considerations, but only in the case of distinguishing between people with equal non-age-related deficits. The guideline emphasized that no matter what, in the spirit of beneficence, anyone who fell ill must receive active palliative care throughout the course of a COVD-19 infection but especially at the end of life. Furthermore, in the spirit of nonmaleficence, the frail, very old, and severely demented would be actively protected from dying on ventilation. J Am Geriatr Soc 68:1370-1375, 2020.

Keywords: COVID-19; Israel national guidelines; triage.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Betacoronavirus
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Coronavirus Infections / therapy*
  • Female
  • Geriatrics / standards*
  • Health Services for the Aged / standards*
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Long-Term Care / methods
  • Long-Term Care / standards
  • Male
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Palliative Care / standards
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / therapy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Triage / methods
  • Triage / standards

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2