New “point system” for determining who receives health care prompts disability rights activists in Pennsylvania to file civil rights complaint

By Maria V. Gallagher, Legislative Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation

Reporting at PennLive.com David Wenner writes that a “point system” proposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health could leave an especially vulnerable population, people with disabilities, without the health care they need,  when it comes to life-saving treatment for COVID-19. 

“Disability Rights Pennsylvania has filed a federal civil rights complaint,” the Philadelphia Inquirer added.

This frightening proposal—“Interim Pennsylvania Crisis Standards of Care for Pandemic Guidelines”– is raising new questions about the prospect of medical rationing during the Coronavirus pandemic, a possibility already raised by assorted “bioethicists.”

Under this disturbing system, those with higher scores because of pre-existing conditions would be deemed a lower priority for accessing ventilators. Meanwhile, those judged to have a longer life expectancy would be considered a top priority for intensive care. 

Individuals with disabilities and their allies say the medical rationing plan is a clear violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. They have sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Health Department detailing the dangers of the proposal.

Asked about the civil rights complaint, a spokeswoman for the Health Department merely told reporters, “The interim guidance that was sent to hospitals was a draft that was not meant for further distribution. We will be working with these and additional stakeholders on a final document.”

People with disabilities poignantly describe cases where they could be at risk of losing life-saving equipment just because they need to go to the hospital—whether for the Coronavirus or any other medical emergency.

According to Wenner

People with disabilities object to the guidelines for assorted reasons, including the potential for “myths, stereotypes, and unfounded assumptions about people with disabilities” to count against them.

“Doctors associate certain disabilities with a poor prognosis for long-term survival even though people with disabilities regularly outlive the prognoses that doctors ascribe to them, often by years,” they say in a letter sent Tuesday to Ray Barishansky, the deputy secretary for health preparedness and community protection for the Pennsylvania Department of Health

Without a clear directive against discrimination, Pennsylvanians face the scary prospect that their disability could become a death sentence under the Department of Health’s arbitrary guidelines. 

ACTION ITEM: Call your Pennsylvania state Representative and state Senator and urge them to use their influence to stop discrimination against people with disabilities through medical rationing during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

If you don’t know who your state lawmakers are, or you need contact information, please visit www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/#address