#WeAreEssential: Why Disabled People Should Be Appointed to Hospital Triage Committees

By Marina Tsaplina and Joseph A. Stramondo: For More Info, Go Here…

There is a fraught history of conflict between the institution of medicine, bioethics, and the disability movement. As disability lawyer Gregory Mansfield wrote in a personal correspondence, “discriminatory attitudes make disabled people think long and hard about going to the hospital to seek care when we need it.” These attitudes have amplified implications for disabled people of color. Disparate health outcomes in the African American, Latinx, and indigenous communities result from generations of discriminatory and structurally violent policies, which now are putting people at risk for contracting and dying from Covid-19. With many states buckling to political pressure to open up public life, the likelihood has again increased that infections will spike, resources will dwindle, and crisis standards of care may need to be activated.

Given the history of conflict, we must now do everything we can to avoid a triage decision-making process that pushes disabled people to the side. One important action is to appoint people with disabilities, and especially those of color, to hospital triage committees. To our knowledge, no hospital or state crisis standards of care protocol mandates this kind of representation. “Hospital triage teams are not in the habit of consulting with people with disabilities or their advocates” wrote Silvia Yee, senior staff attorney at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, in a personal correspondence. This lack of representation results in policies that harm disabled people.

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