HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS MUST NOT DISCRIMINATE AGAINST PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AND CHRONIC ILLNESS DURING PANDEMIC
March. 27th, 2020
For More Information Contact:
Dessa Cosma, Executive Director
Detroit, Michigan -- Disabled and chronically ill residents are outraged by the release of a confirmed Henry Ford Health System letter outlining protocol for rationing care under scarce medical resources and prioritizing “Patients who have the best chance of getting better.”
This vagueness and ambiguity are unacceptable. Such guidance does a disservice to decision making as well as human dignity. Due to a history of ableism in medicine, public policy, and American culture at large, perceived notions of ‘quality of life’ are biased and problematic, often minimizing the value of the vulnerable. We cannot let ‘quality of life’ serve as a pretext for denying treatment, especially vital treatment, to people with disabilities and chronic illness.
According to the Allocation of Scarce Medical Resources and Services During Public Health Emergencies in Michigan, it is unacceptable to consider social characteristics such as disability when making allocation decisions. Categorizing people into social characteristics can be used as pretext for favoritism, discrimination, and reduced access for marginalized groups. Hospital systems around the country are grappling to figure out how to administer scarce resources, creating a patchwork of policies that mean a person with a disability or chronic illness may receive a different level of care from one hospital to another. Therefore, hospital systems, City and State government, must clarify policies and commit to non discrimination of disabled and chronically ill Michiganders.
Earlier this week advocates in Washington filed a complaint with DHHS and the Office of Civil Rights about illegal disability discrimination in treatment rationing protocols being developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic there. We agree that this kind of health care rationing violates federal disability rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Medical triage forces hard decisions. However, disability activists have fought for decades to secure equal access and civil rights when mainstream America did not think we deserved them. As a country, we cannot, even in this crisis, abandon this progress.
According to Roger Severino, the director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ civil rights office, “Persons with disabilities should not be put at the end of the line for health services based on stereotypes or discrimination, especially during emergencies. Our civil rights laws protect the equal dignity of every human being from ruthless utilitarianism.” We agree, and therefore we call on Henry Ford Health System, and all other local healthcare systems, to clarify their policies and we call on our City & State Government to confirm that they will not tolerate discrimination against disabled and chronically ill people as critical care is rationed during this pandemic.
### Detroit Disability Power’s mission is to leverage and build the organizing power of the disability community to ensure the full inclusion of people with disabilities in Metro Detroit.