Italy is a beautiful place and remains a critically important region in the history of Western civilization, but the coronavirus has resulted in the entire country coming to a standstill. According to one report, an obituary section of one paper was expanded from one to ten pages in order to accommodate all of the deaths. But is that a reflection of Italy’s failed health system, or a symptom of a socialist medical system cracking under the pressure? 

At last count, there were about 24,700 cases of coronavirus and 1,800 deaths in Italy, and 3,590 new cases and 398 new deaths reported just in the last 24-hours. The entire country remains essentially on lockdown, with most citizens confined to their residences for the past week.

But why so many deaths in Italy? After all, shouldn’t the country’s health care system be better than China’s?

Italy, like the United Kingdom, is apparently rationing its health care and declining treatment to those in the 80s and 90s who are considered too old to benefit from treatment. Essentially, allowing these elderly citizens and family patriarchs and matriarchs to die alone in hospital wards.

The country also has one of the oldest populations in Europe, which means that the crisis is hitting the country especially hard (coronavirus is more virulent in the older and immunocompromised population). The deaths are so frequent that morgues and churches are filled with the unburied remains of the country’s elders. At this time, because of coronavirus, all funerals have been suspended. 

“For us, it’s a trauma, an emotional trauma,” Alberto Ceresoli, the editor of one paper, told The New York Times. “These are people who die alone and who are buried alone. They didn’t have someone hold their hand and the funerals have to be tiny, with a quick prayer from the priest. Many of the close relatives are in quarantine.”

One of the country’s citizens said that the virus “is massacring this valley, every family is losing someone dear to them. In Bergamo, so many bodies are piling up they don’t know what to do with them.” 

It’s difficult to imagine how the trauma will continue to affect the country in the future, and perhaps it could be seen as a warning of what can happen when the country as a whole is valued more than the individual lives of its citizens.

Socialist systems, like it or not, are designed with the perspective that the whole is greater than the one. In a socialist system, patients with chronic diseases are considered a greater burden on the system than healthy ones and therefore less deserving of care. There’s a reason why there is an entire government agency in Canada dedicated to actively seeking out patients waiting for assisted suicide or euthanasia for organ donation. These dying patients are worth more dead than alive. 

This may even happen here in the United States as well, though probably on a smaller scale. As hospitals are overwhelmed, rationing of health care will likely become a necessary decision. Prayerfully, it won’t come to that.

As a free market system (mostly), health care is always provided to anyone who needs it. Though there is a cost attached, there’s a reason why people come here from all over the world to seek care.