On March 23 the Jerusalem Post published an article titled : “Israeli doctor in Italy: We no longer help those over 60

The Jerusalem Post headline

The whole article is based on the report from an Israeli M.D. Gai Peleg working in Parma (Northern Italy). Here the portion of the article relevant to the headline “Peleg said that, from what he sees and hears in the hospital, the instructions are not to offer access to artificial respiratory machines to patients over 60, as such machines are limited in number.  “

Of notice that Peleg appears to be relying indirect experience, no specific orders quoted, no document shown, no kind of evidence provided other than “based on what he sees and hears”.

To understand how we got to this point we have to go back in time to March 7 when Siaarti, the Italian scientific society of anesthetists and resuscitators , published a document to make clear the general ethical guidelines M.D’s should follow in extreme situations if this where to arise. Document guidelines aren’t special to Italy and underline what are considered globally normal triage practices. One of the most salient points of the document which was soon misinterpreted on the web, is that it states that if situations where to arise where medical equipment was insufficient for those needing it, patients with higher chances of survival should be treated first.

Article from Repubblica about the Siaarti document
https://www.repubblica.it/cronaca/2020/03/08/news/petrini_oggi_la_scelta_di_chi_curare_richiede_regole_certe_-250594687/?refresh_ce

The document spun wild interpretations online and in a twisted game of “broken telephone” by March 8 people where discussing on social media how Italian healthcare officials where at the point of requiring not to treat older patients to save younger ones. This was fake, and once more worthy to underline, the published document was about possible future scenarios, and it was laid out so that if such dramatic situations where to arise, doctors wouldn’t lose time discussing each case and follow some well laid out guidelines.

After this we move to March 19 when British ITV airs an interview with a British nurse working in northern Italy, Connor McAinsh, who says that 10 days before (so around March 9 / 8), guidelines stated that patients over 70 years old should not be intubated to save younger ones. There was absolutely no evidence shown of this, and given the timeline, what Mr. McAinsh was talking about was probably due to the rumours generated by the Siaarti document we discussed earlier.

Based on the ITV interview a British health official / politician, Nadine Dorries ,then posted a tweet where she further distorts the story claiming that “Italy’s stopped intubating patients over 60”. Thanks to her official role and the exceptional claim made, the tweet immediately got a lot of traction and triggered an official response from the Italian embassy in UK dismissing the claim as completely false.

Nadine Dorries than deleted the tweet but it stayed online long enough to generate a new wave of distortions, rumours and ill sourced articles on some media.

Nadine Dorries original tweet which started the new wave of “fake news”

Italian newspaper “Repubblica” on the Nadine Dorries tweet :
https://www.repubblica.it/esteri/2020/03/20/news/regno_unito_sottosegretaria_coronavirus_nadine_dorries_polemica_tweet_60enni_ricoveri-251805636/

All this brings us to the Jerusalem Post article, where the Israeli MD interestingly is reporting the same weird claim and exact age “limit” reported by Nadine Dorries in her tweet, just a couple of days after the tweet.

The various steps that beginning with an official document from Italy lead to a proper fake news published in Israel.

Absolutely no external, official or not, confirmation of such claim exists and it looks a lot like unsourced “news” pushed by the the British politician with an official UK government position, generated a new wave of rumours and distortions which reached the Israeli MD. The Jerusalem Post not worrying about further sourcing the extraordinary claim, decided info was enough to run with a story which would have surely brought “clicks” to their site….

Situation is bad in northern Italy, and it might get to the point where such hard decisions will have to be taken, but we are currently not there (yet at least). Other Italian regions have many free ICU beds and patients can be transferred across regions if needed, this and other solutions will happen before letting people die based on their age (and original document never mentions age, just survival chances).

Media is free to operate in Italy and given the number of doctors and general healthcare personnel, if the time for such hard decisions was to come, we would immediately know it, and we would know it from multiple reliable sources, not an Israeli MD or a British nurse relaying rumours and bringing no evidence….