Feds warn against age and disability discrimination in treatment of virus

By WND Staff


Air Force Staff Sgt. Maxime Copley, 86th Medical Group medical technician, writes down patient information during COVID-19 drive-through screening at the Ramstein Air Base, Germany, medical clinic, March 31, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor D. Slater)

Amid shortages of hospital beds and equipment, the federal government issued an advisory stating any health-care providers that receive federal funding will be barred from discrimination in the treatment of coronavirus patients based on age, disability, language skills or religious faith.

The bulletin by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights advises the providers to “keep in mind their obligations” not to discriminate against elderly and disabled patients when prioritizing COVID-19 treatment.

Such a statement had been sought by scholars working with the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund and the Thomas More Society. A memo to the government was signed by Fordham University bioethicist Charles Camosy, Princeton University’s Robert George and Harvard University sociologist Jacqueline Rivers.

Office for Civil Rights Director Roger Severino said in a statement that Health and Human Services “is committed to leaving no one behind during an emergency, and this guidance is designed to help health care providers meet that goal.”

“Persons with disabilities, with limited English skills, or needing religious accommodations, should not be put at the end of the line for health services during emergencies,” he said. “Our civil rights laws protect the equal dignity of every human life from ruthless utilitarianism.”

Severino said decisions must be made “on an individualized assessment of the patient and his or her circumstances, based on the best available objective medical evidence.”

Charles LiMandri, special counsel for FCDF and the Thomas More Society commended the advisory.

“We recognize that doctors must use triage to prioritize treatment and that means having to make difficult choices. But rationing health care based on a person’s age or disability is not only unlawful, it is inhumane,” he said. “We are pleased the Trump administration shares that belief, and we expect the bulletin to reassure doctors fighting at the frontlines of this pandemic.”

The memo commissioned by LiMandri’s group pointed out civil rights statutes forbid “discriminatory policies established by state health officials – based on age or disability.”

Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Peter Breen said “the unthinkable” was happening, with the Seattle Times reporting that Washington state and hospital officials were “meeting to consider how to decide who lives and dies.”

“In our nation’s capital, the Washington Post is running editorials about the ‘nightmare’ of rationing health care, as is the National Review in the hard-hit state of New York,” he said.

“The horrific idea of withholding care from someone because they are elderly or disabled, is untenable and represents a giant step in the devaluation of each and every human life in America.”

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