Hospitals May Issue DNR Orders on Coronavirus Patients Without Their Consent

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 26, 2020   |   4:02PM   |   Washington, DC

Hospital leaders are having difficult conversations about medical rationing during the coronavirus outbreak, sparking fears about potential discrimination against the elderly and people with disabilities.

Already, anti-life ethics have pervaded modern medicine through abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide. These life-destroying practices allow discrimination against people with disabilities and terminal illnesses, the elderly and unborn.

Now, as the coronavirus crisis crosses the globe and world leaders worry about insufficient medical supplies and personnel, medical leaders are talking about taking drastic measures that could mean some people will be left to die.

One major concern is hospitals imposing do not resuscitate (DNR) orders on patients without their or their family’s consent.

According to The Washington Post, a number of major U.S. hospitals are considering the drastic action as they weigh the potential to save lives against the increased risk of healthcare workers getting the virus and spreading it to other patients.

The newspaper reports many hospitals are considering a proposal by University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Scott Halpern, which would allow two physicians to impose a DNR order on a patient as long as they document the reason for it and inform the patient’s family. Neither the patient nor the family would have to consent.

Here’s more from the report:

Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago has been discussing a universal do-not-resuscitate policy for infected patients, regardless of the wishes of the patient or their family members — a wrenching prospect of prioritizing the lives of the many over the one. …

Officials at George Washington University Hospital in Washington say they have had similar conversations, but for now will continue to resuscitate covid-19 patients using modified procedures, such as putting plastic sheeting over the patient to create a barrier. The University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, one of the country’s major hot spots for infections, is dealing with the problem by severely limiting the number of responders to a contagious patient in cardiac or respiratory arrest.

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Bruno Petinaux, chief medical officer at George Washington University Hospital, said they are considering a protocol like Halpern’s if things get worse, but, for now, they have enough equipment and staff to handle their patients.

Other major hospital systems considering medical rationing measures include Atrium Health in the Carolinas, Geisinger in Pennsylvania and regional Kaiser Permanente networks, according to the report.

Fears about medical rationing grew earlier this month after the Telegraph reported about an Italian hospital’s proposal to “leave patients over the age of 80 to die … if the situation becomes of such an exceptional nature as to make the therapeutic choices on the individual case dependent on the availability of resources.”

Last week, pro-life and disability rights advocacy groups wrote to the Trump administration urging leaders to protect people with disabilities and the elderly from similar discrimination-based medical rationing.

“Such policies are an affront to human dignity and are also illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act,” leaders of the National Right to Life Committee wrote in their letter. “We urge the Department to act swiftly to clarify that rationing access to scarce medical resources on the basis of disability or age is not permissible and will be subject to enforcement action if it occurs.”

The National Council on Disability also sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) warning of potential discrimination. It pointed to state protocols for medical care during times of crisis as a cause for concern.

Protocols from the New York State Department of Health, for example, support medical rationing for people who are on ventilators during a pandemic. According to the guidelines, people who use ventilators and live on their own could have their ventilator taken away and given to someone else if they go to a hospital for treatment during a pandemic.

Responding to medical rationing proposals, attorneys representing the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund and the Thomas More Society also published a legal memorandum explaining that federal civil rights statutes prohibit discrimination – including discriminatory policies established by state health officials – based on age or disability.