One of the major causes of distress in people over 70 years of age who are confined to their homes has undoubtedly been the news that patients with coronavirus over 80 years of age would not be admitted to the ICU. In many hospitals this has been applied as it is. In others, life expectancy with quality was a priority criterion. Certainly it was not only a question of chronological age, but biological, trying to save the one with minimum survival expectations of at least two years without serious disability and taking into account the social value of people (dependents etc.). But the unease was even greater when news arrived that overcrowded hospitals were recommending that people over 70 years of age not be transferred, a fact confirmed by the testimonies of the patients’ relatives.
Faced with such an outrage, the Ministry of Health has removed the simple criterion of age to prevent the care of those over 70 or 80, depending on the case. High age is not a disease!
If Francisco de Ayala had lived in our days and had been caught by the coronavirus at the age of 85 in certain Spanish hospitals, he would not have been admitted to the ICU and would have been sedated according to the instructions given, since his life expectancy would have been very short. The Nobel Prize winner only had 18 years to live from that date to continue writing!
Something similar would have happened to the other Nobel Prize winners in Spanish literature over 80 years old if they had lived in March 2020: José de Echegaray (+84 years old), Jacinto Benavente (+88 years old), Vicente Aleixandre (+86a), (Camilo José de Cela (+85 years old), Octavio Paz (+84 years old) and Gabriel María Márquez (+87 years old). Mario Vargas Llosa is the only one who is currently living at 84 years old, an age for some, scandalous and today of special risk (by the way, it is mine and for some I must apologize for it). It would have been bingo if the Nobel Prize winners had simply been allowed access to the emergency room at 84. Fortunately, someone could have recognized them in spite of their bad looks, and the “social value” would have been taken into account by allowing them to enter the sancta sanctorum of the ICUs.
Of course, some would not have won the Nobel Prize if they had been infected with the coronavirus at 75 in our time and had not received adequate care because of their age. For example, Octavio Paz who won the Nobel Prize at 76 and Aleixandre at 79. What gall, to receive the prize so old…
Interestingly, two Spanish-language Nobel Prize winners, Chileans Gabriela Mistral (+ 68 years old) and Pablo Neruda (+ 69 years old), could have passed the tests to be treated in a proper way if they were seriously attacked by the virus because they were under 70 years old. But strangely enough, their supposed life expectancy of more than two years in quality would have been reduced in this case to one and two years of life. Well, how awful, the protocol would have been broken!
Since we are on a health issue, we could mention famous doctors, who would surely not get any priority, because the protocol is very strict and the lack of protection for health professionals, as we have seen in the thousands of infections, some fatal, has been glaring. Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Severo Ochoa, Segovia de Arana and so many others who come to mind would have succumbed in this pandemic because they would have made the serious mistake of passing 80 years and some even wearing beards, which would make them older. Hopefully someone would think that they would have more than two years of life expectancy with quality and by being well known in the sector save them too, but in breach of protocol.
It would have been worse for people like Picasso (+92 years), but it is not worth continuing because the list of illustrious Spanish people who died of old age with a life expectancy of more than two years in quality would be endless. By the way, today, the number of people over 85 is the fastest growing age cohort, most of them in very reasonable health.
Some actions on the occasion of this pandemic, such as those mentioned above, have been causing particular distress to the elderly population (and their families and friends). We should comfort them and ensure that they can continue to enjoy life without frustration and that those who feel lonely will be effectively protected by the administration’s informal and formal social networks.
Those age constraints – 70 and 80 years – that we, the current survivors, have alluded to, have been just a bad nightmare for us. Not for those who could not be cared for and lost their lives.
Eduardo Rodríguez Rovira
Honorary President of CEOMA (Spanish Confederation of Elderly Organizations)