As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the world, Americans are now faced with a terrifying possibility: rationed healthcare.

And as Allen C. Guelzo explains in The Wall Street Journal, it may violate the civil rights of millions of Americans:

The U.S. has reported more than 80,000 cases of Covid-19. About half are in New York and more than 10,000 cases were reported in a single day. If projections by Cory Chivers, a data scientist at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, are correct, those numbers represent 15% of all cases. American hospitals have only about 96,000 intensive-care beds, and an estimated 62,000 full-featured ventilators to deal with the respiratory failure associated with severe coronavirus infections. (A further 12,700 ventilators are in the Strategic National Stockpile.) Hospitals could soon be short of beds, personnel and ventilators.

That spells rationing. Demetre Daskalakis, deputy commissioner for disease control at New York’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, warned on March 9 that hospitals will “have to think about triaging the use of ICU beds and ventilators,” and that will require “making some very serious difficult decisions.” 

In Seattle, state Health Department officials and health-industry professionals conferred last week on a “triage” plan that would decide who receives full care based on age, health status and severity of illness. The rest would simply be given “comfort care.” Last week Susan Henderson, executive director of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, wrote a public letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom to express worry that the state had also begun “discussion of ‘rationing’ medical care.”…

Then there are the legal questions raised by rationing. The Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund and the Thomas More Society have published a memorandum that warns health-care officials against violations of federal civil-rights law in cases of “discriminatory health care decisions.” The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits “discrimination on the basis of age in programs or activities receiving Federal financial assistance.” The ban covers all activities of recipient institutions, such as hospitals. Likewise, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as bluntly forbids excluding an “individual with a disability” from any service by a federally funded entity.

Hopefully when American health officials and politcians look back on their action once this pandemic ends, they won’t be filled with regret for the decisions they made. 


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