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Hastings Center News

Covid-19 Crisis Triage—Optimizing Health Outcomes and Disability Rights

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, Hastings Center president Mildred Solomon and two Hastings Center fellows address concerns that crisis triage protocols aimed at allocating scarce health care resources to save the most lives could be biased against people with disabilities. Their article offers policy recommendations for triage protocols that save the most lives and protect core values, such as the equal moral worth of all people.

The article, “Covid-19 Crisis Triage—Optimizing Health Outcomes and Disability Rights,”  was written by Solomon and Matthew K. Wynia, a professor at the Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health and director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, and Lawrence O. Gostin, director of  the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law School.

“Allocation of ventilators has become symbolic of the difficult ethical choices we face, but the criteria and processes we recommend apply to any scarce medical resource,” the authors write.

Solomon summed up the rationale for writing the paper. “Discrimination against the disabled in health care is well documented, so it behooves us to ensure that triage protocols do all they can to avoid bias,” she said. “Responsible health systems and health care leaders are doing the nation a service by anticipating the potential, tragic need for these protocols and working to design them as responsibly as possible.” Read the article for free.