An Update from DRRI on COVID-19
DRRI Questions Crisis Standards
of Care
Civil rights laws are not suspended or waived during
a crisis or disaster. F ederal disability rights laws “protect the equal dignity of every human life from ruthless utilitarianism .”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some states and hospitals are utilizing existing policies, or are developing new policies, that are intended to assist in life or death decisions in case emergency healthcare resources are insufficient, and choices about who gets life-saving healthcare are made.

Rhode Island hospitals are now developing crisis standards of care, at the direction of Governor Raimondo and the RI Department of Health.

Last Friday, April 17, Governor Raimondo issued guidelines f or these standards of care to all hospitals, instructing them to submit proposed plans, incorporating these guidelines, for approval by Thursday, April 23, 2020.
In response, DRRI sent a letter , today, to Governor Raimondo and RIDOH Director Alexander-Scott, outlining serious concerns with components of the guidelines, including:

  • The guidelines provided to hospitals refer to a process of individuals utilizing "shared decision-making with their physician" when providing informed consent. In order to give informed consent to voluntarily refusing life-sustaining medical resources, some individuals with disabilities will need accommodations, for example, the presence of support person or family member to assist with understanding information and/or communicating a decision. The guidelines do not specify these accommodations.

  • DRRI supports the recommendation against the use of fundamentally discriminatory factors in developing a "patient score" for resource allocation.

  • DRRI strongly disagrees with Rhode Island's directive to healthcare professionals and hospitals to abandon the principle of patient-focused care in favor of public-focused care. Maximization of population survival is not consistent with the basic tenets of individual rights.

  • DRRI cautions against hospitals utilizing their own scales and assessments of "likelihood of survival" in determining the need for a scarce resources.

  • While it is appropriate that, “[d]isease-specific exclusion criteria should be avoided,” adding the qualification, “if possible,” does not eliminate consideration of pre-existing conditions, including disabilities.
Key Facts & Additional Resources:

  • During this COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to remember that individuals with disabilities still retain their rights to be free from discrimination including in hospital settings.

  • These rights are guaranteed by federal and state civil rights laws including the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (§504), [the ACA 42 USC §18116] and the Rhode Island Civil Rights of People with Disabilities Act (CRPDA).

For concerns about your rights regarding medical treatment or care and any other disability-related legal concerns during this crisis, please contact us at:

 Disability Rights Rhode Island
Our answering service is available 24/7 and if you do not reach us during
business hours, a member of our staff will return your call within 24 hours. 
(401) 831-3150
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