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Staff of Asclepius and a pile of dollars

As health care resources grow increasingly scarce amid the COVID-19 pandemic, states, hospitals, and individuals are forced to make tough decisions about the rationing of care. These decisions are often framed in terms of medical and/or legal criteria. However, many people, especially the physicians who make the difficult decisions, realize they have a huge moral component related to perceptions of the value of an individual’s life.

Various states have triage guidelines in place, which differ somewhat, but primarily reflect a utilitarian goal of saving the most people with the least expenditure of finite resources. This is where the societal issue of the value of the life of a person with a disability comes into play.

Many of the guidelines state that the decision to treat needs to consider co-morbidities and anticipated resource use in the future. This is updated eugenic thought, whereby you have only the survival of the fittest, with an assumed understanding of what “the fittest” actually entails. These conceptions are based on a medical model of disability, something many people with disabilities find extremely problematic. It’s also... see more