Disability Rights Group Demand Gov. Brown Prevent COVID-19 Healthcare Discrimination

After health officials in Washington began discussing a plan to ration healthcare, Disability Rights Oregon has sent Gov. Kate Brown a letter stating that Oregon physicians may not discriminate against patients with disabilities if the state’s medical system is overwhelmed.  

Washington physicians discussed a triage plan that “will assess factors such as age, health and likelihood of survival in determining who will get access to full care and who will merely be provided comfort care, with the expectation that they will die,” according to a report from the Seattle Times. The Washington Department of Health and Northwest Healthcare Regional Network are now facing a federal civil rights complaint from DRO’s sister organization, Disability Rights Washington.  

DRO’s letter to Brown aims to prevent such a plan from being implemented in Oregon.  

“We ask you to immediately issue clear directives that all trainings remind health care providers not to give priority to treating people who are younger and healthier and leave those who are older and have more health conditions—people with disabilities—to go without care or treatment,” wrote DRO executive Jake Garrett on March 24.   

As of March 27, Washington had 3,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19, compared to 316 in Oregon. Officials are concerned about Washington’s healthcare system becoming overwhelmed.“ We know that public health officials have planned for this possibility. As preparation to implement this plan unfolds, we must work together to ensure the plan and implementation of this plan do not inadvertently discriminate against people with disabilities in violation of federal and state disability rights laws,” said Garrett.  

In a response to Willamette Week, a representative from Brown’s office stated Oregon will not make a similar plan.“Gov. Brown strongly believes that all Oregonians should have access to the health care they need, regardless of age or disability,” said Brown spokesman Charles Boyle. “The Oregon Health Authority offers crisis care guidance, which clearly outlines that age and disability are not exclusion criteria for care. That has always been our expectation, and continues to be during the COVID-19 outbreak.”  

By Kevin Davenport-Rackham