As these conversations are being had, CNA spoke via email with Charlie Camosy, an associate professor of theology at Fordham University, about what principles should be used as doctors might face such choices.
Among Camosy's research interests are bioethics and distributive justice. Among his works are Too Expensive to Treat? Finitude, Tragedy and the Neonatal ICU and Resisting Throwaway Culture: How a Consisten Life Ethic Can Unite a Fractured People.
What principles should be used in deciding how to distribute limited treatment for coronavirus?
The first thing to say is that there are virtually no universally agreed-upon principles to do this--excepting, perhaps, the idea that health care providers, first-responders, law enforcement, and others primarily responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the polity should get priority.
Beyond that, there is tremendous disagreement – at least in the culture at large. What one believes about this largely comes from their first principles related to what they believe in their hearts and souls about the good, true, and beautiful.
Catholics, of course, have these principles...and they differ especially from the utilitarian mindset that dominates so much of secular ethics and medicine today. We serve the most vulnerable first. Those people are Christ to us in a special way and we will be judged according to how we treat them. We don't think about, say, how long they might stay on a ventilator vs. how long someone we might encounter next week might stay on a ventilator. We also don't think about how long they might have to live if the treatment is successful vs. how long other someone we might encounter next week might live if their treatment is successful.