Concerns over who will get treatment amid patient spikes


Disabled and chronically ill residents are outraged by the release of a confirmed Henry Ford Health System letter outlining protocol for rationing care under scarce medical resources and prioritizing “Patients who have the best chance of getting better.”

According to the Allocation of Scarce Medical Resources and Services During Public Health Emergencies in Michigan, it is unacceptable to consider social characteristics such as disability when making allocation decisions. Categorizing people into social characteristics can be used as pretext for favoritism, discrimination, and reduced access for marginalized groups.

“The Henry Ford guidelines for who lives and dies are vague in terms of instructions but are pointed attacks on human dignity and worth,” said Dessa Cosma of Detroit Disability Power. “This rationing of care is based on an ugly history of ableism in American culture that must be confronted and dismissed. We cannot let ‘quality of life’ serve as a pretext for denying treatment, especially vital treatment, to people with disabilities and chronic illness.”

Hospital systems around the country are grappling to figure out how to administer scarce resources, creating a patchwork of policies that mean a person with a disability or chronic illness may receive a different level of care from one hospital to another. Therefore, hospital systems, city and state government, must clarify policies and commit to non-discrimination of disabled and chronically ill Michiganders. Moreover, elected officials must continue to press the federal government for resources needed to save lives.

Earlier this week in Washington state, the Center for Public Representation, Disability Rights Washington, The Arc and others filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Civil Rights about illegal disability discrimination in treatment rationing protocols for the COVID-19 pandemic there. That kind of health care rationing violates federal disability rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

According to Roger Severino, the director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ civil rights office, “Persons with disabilities should not be put at the end of the line for health services based on stereotypes or discrimination, especially during emergencies. Our civil rights laws protect the equal dignity of every human being from ruthless utilitarianism.”

Detroit Disability Power agrees, and calls on Henry Ford Health System, and all other local healthcare systems, to clarify their policies.  The group also demands that municipal, county and state elected officials clearly state that they will not tolerate discrimination against disabled and chronically ill people as critical care is rationed during this pandemic.


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