WASHINGTON—On Saturday, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a bulletin directing covered entities to follow the law to ensure that civil rights are not violated in the treatment of those diagnosed with COVID-19.
Recent news articles highlighted healthcare providers and “ethicists” discussing the possibility of rationing care based on the age and ability of those affected by COVID-19. Others raised the possibility of instituting mandatory “do not resuscitate” orders for COVID-19 patients, even if doing so overrode a patient’s advanced directive or the family’s wishes.
Early last week, National Right to Life sent a letter to President Trump, HHS Secretary Alex Azar and OCR Director Roger Severino sounding the alarm about the danger of planned discrimination and the need to protect persons with disabilities, the elderly, and individuals with chronic conditions. The letter can be found here: https://www.nrlc.org/wp-content/uploads/Covid-19-Rationing-letter-3.19.2020-1.pdf
OCR Director Roger Severino said, “Our civil rights laws protect the equal dignity of every human life from ruthless utilitarianism. HHS is committed to leaving no one behind during an emergency and helping health care providers meet that goal. Persons with disabilities, with limited English skills, and older persons should not be put at the end of the line for health care during emergencies.”
“We praise OCR Director Roger Severino and the Office of Civil Rights for issuing the bulletin and for directing that covered entities ensure that people are treated equally under the law,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. “No one should face discrimination in their health care when dealing with a diagnosis of COVID-19.”
According to the OCR press release, “OCR is particularly focused on ensuring that covered entities do not unlawfully discriminate against people with disabilities when making decisions about their treatment during the COVID-19 health care emergency.”
“It is vital that during this crisis, Americans can trust that they will receive the care they need without regard to their age, health, or ability,” said Jennifer Popik, J.D., legislative director for National Right to Life.
Several news sources have reported on the rationing of care in other countries, whether it could happen here in the United States and how some hospitals and locales are considering it:
The OCR bulletin can be found here: www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ocr-bulletin-3-28-20.pdf