The Tennessee-based, 18,000-member Christian Medical Association (CMA, www.cmda.org) today applauded a Tennessee patient protection policy announced this afternoon by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and developed collaboratively between HHS, the state of Tennessee and disability rights groups.
CMA’s Executive Vice President for Bioethics and Public Policy, Dr. Jeffrey Barrows, noted, “Patients with disabilities face even greater challenges than others during a pandemic, and we’re thankful that both the federal government and the state of Tennessee are standing in the gap to protect the civil rights of all Americans. No person with a disability should have to fear that a government will assign their lives a lower value simply because they live with physical challenges.”
The policy, announced today by HHS, reportedly incorporates crucial protections into the state’s Crisis Standards of Care plan, stipulating that factors such as age or disability should not be used as criteria in determining the allocation of scarce resources. The policy also protects vulnerable patients who require additional resources from automatically being assigned a lower priority to receive lifesaving care.
Working with the HHS OCR, the state agreed to remove language permitting the use of a patient’s long-term life expectancy as a factor in determining assignment of scarce resources. The policy also stipulates that long-term ventilator users will be protected from having their own ventilators taken from them and given to someone else.
Dr. Barrows, an Obstetrician-Gynecologist, observed, “Every human life is of immeasurable worth at every stage of life, regardless of physical challenges. We congratulate the HHS Office of Civil Rights for ensuring the civil rights of persons with disabilities. We also encourage the Department to ensure that civil rights are extended to vulnerable persons of all ages, including babies born prematurely.”