Amid an acute shortage of Amphotericin-B, the only last-line drug used to treat mucormycosis, the Delhi high court on Monday asked the Centre and state government to put before it a policy on who should be given priority for the medicine to be saved — an elderly person or a young one.
A bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh said authorities will have to take the “cruel decision” of excluding certain age groups or classes till supplies of the drug are short.
“We follow the practice of ‘Vasudev Kutumbakam’ which means the world is one family, but if there are two patients in a family who need the medicine and you have one dose, you have to chose one member… It is not an easy decision to take but this is a bullet you have to take,” the bench said, adding that the choice cannot be left to doctors.
Citing an example, the bench said that if there are two patients who need the drug — one who is 80-years-old and another who is 35 — and there is only one dose of medicine, one will have to be excluded.
Also read: At least 59 die of black fungus as fatalities outpace recoveries
“If we have to make that cruel choice, we have to make it. We are faced with that situation. We will have to cross this bridge. Will you give it to the 80-year-old or to the 35-year-old who has two children to support?
“Every life is important but we are trying to find a way forward. Every life is important, we are not for a moment saying someone’s life is not important or less important. But you have to take a decision. Every single life is important,” the bench said.
The court asked the Union and Delhi governments to return on Tuesday with instructions on the matter, and said the decision can be taken only by the political leadership, in consultation with medical experts.
Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, said they were following the Centre’s formula to allocate vials of the scarce antifungal, and said it will only change its system after the Centre does so.
The central government standing counsel Kirtiman Singh said that for non-Central government-run hospitals, states have to take the decision and even states will know the patient load.
To this, the bench said, “You have to prioritise.. You will have to make that list. You are making allocation from central pool.”
Spokespersons from the Delhi government and the Centre did not respond to requests for comment.