The unprecedented scale of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing efforts to provide critical hospital care have raised serious questions about rationing (limiting access) based on disability or age. Although, like everything else, health care is subject to the problem of scarcity, principles exist for determining the appropriate allocation of medical resources, especially during a pandemic.
COVID-19 offers an opportunity to reflect on those principles and to consider how they apply in concrete circumstances to avoid discrimination. Those considerations underscore the importance of Catholic hospitals and Catholics, more generally, to witness to the broader community the best care practices that value human dignity and uphold the common good.
According to the Center for Public Integrity, 25 states have scarce resource policies and protocols for hospitals. These policies could potentially harm people because they may limit access to life-saving medical equipment such as ventilators.
States are using a patchwork of rationing protocols in hospitals: first come first serve (first to the hospital gets treated); a lottery (random selection sidesteps triage); categorical exclusions (age, disability, pre-existing conditions place you at the back of the line); resource intensity (less care if your care drains resources); and fair-innings (if you’re “late in the baseball game,” your […]