He said that his office had received “several” complaints about state crisis standards of care being developed in response to the new coronavirus pandemic. The office was in the process of starting investigations into those complaints he said.
As there are now more than 100,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) in the U.S., states are considering “triage” plans in the event that their hospitals and health care systems are overwhelmed by an expected surge in new coronavirus patients.
Such plans would detail how critical care, such as ICU beds and ventilators, would be rationed in such a crisis. However, advocates are sounding the alarm that the plans could be used to deny care to people with disabilities and the elderly, based upon their supposed likelihood of survival.
Severino on Saturday clarified the existing civil rights protections for people with disabilities, and said that they were grounded in fundamental American principles.
“Part of the greatness of America is not simply our military might or our economic power, but the beauty of our character in how we treat the most vulnerable among us,” he said.
“We are not a society that is guided by some sort of ruthless utilitarianism, but one guided by compassion, justice, and fairness. And those principles are embodied in our civil rights laws.”
Last week, disability rights groups in Washington state said they had filed a complaint with the HHS OCR over a triage plan being developed by state health officials that they said posed a danger to persons with disabilities.
“While discussions about the details of the plan may be evolving, it is clear that it will discriminatorily disadvantage people with disabilities,” the groups’ letter stated, citing guidance by the state’s health department that reportedly “recommends that triage teams consider transferring hospital patients with ‘loss of reserves in energy, physical ability, cognition and general health’ to outpatient or palliative care.”
This week, 30 members of Congress wrote HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Attorney General William Barr, requesting that they issue guidance to states on the civil rights protections.
Severino said on Saturday that he was “concerned” that state crisis standards of care might be based on “value judgements” and “stereotypes” about the worth of someone’s life.
“This is about fairness, equality, inclusion, and justice under our civil rights laws,” he said.
Religious health providers objecting to state standards of care could also be protected under federal law, Severino said.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
For example, a religious hospital might wish to preserve the life of a patient with down syndrome, contrary to state standards of crisis care mandating that ventilators be given to patients with the supposed highest likelihood of survival.
“That could be an issue that could arise that is included in these questions of resource allocation,” Severino said.