Some States May Deny Lifesaving Medical Care to Those With Intellectual Disabilities
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread throughout the country, many disability advocacy organizations are worried that those with intellectual disabilities may be denied lifesaving medical care. Certain disaster preparedness plans currently in effect in Washington and Alabama state that individuals with cognitive issues are considered a lower priority for coronavirus-related treatments.
Several complaints have been filed this week by these organizations with the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asking the federal government for clarification on these plans.
What Disability Advocates Are Saying
Advocates argue that the disaster preparedness plans discriminate against people with intellectual disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, and other such conditions from getting equal access to medical care. This includes specific access to ventilators, which are in short supply, but in high demand for COVID-19 patients.
This lack of life-saving equipment could impact over seven million people in the U.S. who have some form of cognitive disability and become infected with the deadly virus.
Disaster Preparedness Plans in Place
Unfortunately, certain plans in place clearly state that those with cognitive issues are a lower priority for lifesaving care. In Alabama, individuals with advanced dementia, neurological complications or severe mental retardation or severe traumatic brain injury are considered poor candidates for ventilators.
Other plans also have vague provisions that negatively impact the intellectually disabled community. Medical officials are being advised that resources should be allocated to patients with a greater need or better prognosis that is likely to have a positive outcome using limited resources.
Prioritizing who should receive lifesaving medical treatment has become a constant battle during this difficult time. HHS officials are opposed to rationing medical care for those with disabilities and believe that no one should be discriminated against receiving health services, even in emergency situations.
Why People With Intellectual Disabilities Are Vulnerable
Disability advocacy organizations and family members of those with intellectual disabilities know how especially vulnerable their community is to this deadly virus. Many with severe impairments are living n group homes or other assisted living facilities impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
It can even be difficult for someone with cognitive issues to understand the importance of this pandemic, such as wearing a mask if sick, properly washing their hands and social distancing. Many people in group homes are being infected by their caregivers who are passing it on to their loved ones.
Although state rationing plans are singling out people with intellectual disabilities and other cognitive conditions, advocates are questioning policymakers and taking action against discriminatory behavior.