COVID-19 Updates: Addressing Health Care Triage Biases

Our focus today is the issue of health care triage. On April 7, the Commonwealth released the "Crisis Standards of Care" developed by notable medical professionals in our state. Although this advisory was developed with good intentions, we and other organizations argue that there are notable gaps that could unintentionally be harmful to persons with disabilities. We will be asking you to communicate to Governor Baker with our concerns.

We appreciate the efforts of our health care providers and medical settings for the yeoman work they are doing in protecting all our citizens. “All” our citizens.

They need all the tools to function effectively and most prominent among them as we know is personal protective equipment (PPE). As the crisis continues and possibly worsens, other tools like the recently published “Crisis Standards of Care” are also vital to guide them in life and death decisions. The standards of care need more than a principle that attributes such as gender, race, disability, etc. should not be used as a reason to withhold care. But such as statement is not enough – for staff making split second decisions under crisis conditions, principles should be operationalized. 

The reality is that bias, often unconscious, remains deeply embedded within our societal DNA. Medical professionals are not immune to this bias. Standards should include training and directions on point allocation that give triage team members tools which they will appreciate one day when they look back at difficult decisions during these challenging times.