Arizona’s standards for allocating scarce medical resources during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic have been revised to resolve a month-long federal complaint.
The state’s revised Crisis Standards of Care now reflect “legal requirements and best practices regarding the needs of people with disabilities and older adults,” according to a statement by the Department of Health’s Civil Rights Office released Tuesday.
The complaint, filed by multiple stakeholders on July 17, argued that the state’s crisis standards allowed under COVID-19 discriminated against elderly Arizonans, people of color and people with disabilities.
“We are very pleased to have standards that now ensure that all patients, including those with disabilities, receive fair treatment,” said Maya Abela, a solicitor with the Arizona Center for Disability Law, Tuesday afternoon.
The Federal Office for Civil Rights provided technical assistance and used a “collaborative process” to revise the guidelines, according to the federal statement.
“This is a significant step forward for all residents of our state,” Jon Meyers, executive director of The Arc of Arizona, said Tuesday in a statement on pandemic life-saving medical care such as no such conditions. “
The Arc of Arizona, which works to protect the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, was one of several advocacy groups and two individual Arizonans who filed the federal complaint. The Arizona Center for Disability Law was also part of the complaint.
“While we are keeping our fingers crossed for the initial surge (of COVID-19) and it will never happen again, we felt it was very important to make sure that these changes are still reflected,” Abela said.
“We have these variants floating around. This whole pandemic was just so difficult to predict. … These would be the standards that hospitals and other medical providers would look to when trying to make these really tough decisions about who would care received in case there is not enough care to go around. “
The protocols in Arizona’s Crisis Standards of Care, as well as an addendum added during the pandemic, put some Arizonans at risk for “imminent harm” and offered the potential for some people with disabilities to be “mistakenly perceived as having a shorter life expectancy.” “said the federal complaint.
“We are pleased to have worked with our advocacy partners and OCR to ensure that language represents the true intent of our healthcare workers and makes very difficult decisions during the pandemic without discriminating against a patient,” said Dr. Cara Christ, Arizona Department of Health Services Director, said in a statement Tuesday.
On June 29, during the state’s first major surge in COVID-19, Christ authorized the state’s hospitals to activate the standards if necessary. Although hospitals were allowed to use the crisis standards and some reported they were approaching, none said they had ever used them.
Allocation of scarce resources on the basis of long-term life expectancy is prohibited
The state’s crisis standards guide the rationing of resources that are scarce for patients based on factors such as their likelihood of survival.
Among other things, the standards now prohibit the use of a patient’s long-term life expectancy as a factor in the allocation and redistribution of scarce medical resources.
Further revisions of the document:
- New safeguards against providers who induce patients to consent to withdrawal or withhold life support to show that patients may not be pressured to make certain decisions about advanced care planning.
- Healthcare decisions that discriminate against protected groups are prohibited. The updated language clarifies that triage decisions can be made without discrimination based on disability, age, race, ethnicity, skin color, national origin, religion, gender, veteran status, genetic information, or sexual orientation the gender identity of the individual.
- People cannot be excluded from care based on perceived quality of life or social worth.
- The revised document urges providers to make treatment decisions based only on the likelihood of short-term survival from the current illness.
- The updated language ensures that reasonable accommodation is in place for a person’s disability while in hospital.
- Inclusion of language to ensure that long-term ventilator users are protected from having a ventilator they bring with them being taken to a hospital for removal to be passed on to someone else.
The complaint involved 2 Arizonans who survived the predictions of the medical service providers
The U.S. health system’s longstanding discrimination against people with disabilities and people from color communities has resulted in higher rates of underlying health conditions and lower life expectancy for these groups, the Arizona complaint said. Because of this, the complaint said, it was inherently unfair to test people based on their life expectancy.
Although the original document and the Crisis Standards Addendum contained general prohibitions against the use of race or age to justify prioritization of care, the complaint argued that the addendum contained several provisions aimed at discriminating against people with disabilities, the elderly and Arizonans Individuals from communities of color could lead.
Factors such as a mortality rating of one to five years could easily lead to discrimination against color communities, as blacks, for example, statistically have a shorter life expectancy than whites, the complaint said.
In addition to disability and civil rights groups, the complaint was made by two people who are both Arizona residents and have a disability – one in their forties and the other in their twenties. Both had survived medical providers’ original estimates and feared their life expectancy would be similarly misjudged if they were ever hospitalized with COVID-19.
The U.S. Department of Health’s Civil Rights Office helped resolve complaints about crisis standards in other states, including Utah, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Alabama, over the past year.
“The productive collaboration between OCR, local stakeholders who filed the complaint, and the state of Arizona led to the development of plans to help ensure that older adults and people with disabilities have non-discriminatory access to during this public health emergency Preserve medical resources, “Robinsue Frohboese director of the HHS Civil Rights Office said in a statement.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has posed significant challenges to our health systems, but the core principles of non-discrimination remain and all people should be treated with dignity and respect and not be denied access to resources simply for who they are.”
Reach health reporter Stephanie Innes at [email protected] or at 602-444-8369. Follow her on Twitter @stephanieinnes.
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