"Who Gets the Ventilator? Disability Discrimination in COVID-19 Medical-Rationing Protocols"

Michigan Law Authors
Areas of Interest
Publish Date
Yale Law Journal Forum
Publication Type
Journal Article

The coronavirus pandemic has forced us to reckon with the possibility of having to ration life-saving medical treatments. In response, many health systems have employed proto-cols that explicitly de-prioritize people for these treatments based on pre-existing disabilities. This Essay argues that such protocols violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Affordable Care Act. Such explicit discrimination on its face violates these statutes. Nor can medical providers simply define disabled patients as being “unqualified” because of disa-bilities that do not affect the ability to ameliorate the condition for which treatment is sought. A proper interpretation of the law may permit medical providers to use disability as a basis for a rationing decision where an individual’s underlying disability will kill the individual in the imme-diate term regardless of the treatment. However, as this Essay demonstrates, those circumstances will be narrow. Further, the law requires that such imminent-death determinations will be made based on the best available objective evidence, free from both bias against people with disabilities and devaluation of their lives.