24 March 2020

We are extremely worried with reports stating that, in some countries, medical guidelines for the COVID 19 pandemic are discriminating against persons with disabilities.

This is why we updated our "Open letter to leaders at the EU and in EU countries: COVID-19 – Disability inclusive response" with demands related to the development of non-discriminatory medical guidelines:

Non-discriminatory ethical medical guidelines

  • In countries where healthcare professionals will not be able to provide the same level of care to everyone due to lack of equipment and underfunding of the healthcare sector, medical guidelines need to be non-discriminatory and follow international law and existing ethics guidelines for care in the event of disaster and emergencies. These are clear: persons with disabilities cannot be discriminated against.

  • In producing these guidelines authorities must take into account their commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, especially article 11 - situations of risk and humanitarian emergency.

They must also following existing best practice such as:

in selecting the patients who may be saved, the physician should consider only their medical status and predicted response to the treatment, and should exclude any other consideration based on non-medical criteria.

The attribution of priority of treatments to be deliver as well as the victims to be treated cannot fail to take into account the fundamental ethical principles, which materialize in a correct application of triage, trying to optimize the allocation of resources. The only parameter of choice, therefore, is the correct application of triage, respecting every human life, based on the criteria of clinical appropriateness and proportionality of the treatments. Any other selection criteria, such as age, gender, social or ethnic affiliation, disability, is ethically unacceptable, as it would implement a ranking of lives only apparently more or less worthy of being lived, constituting a unacceptable violation of human rights.”

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