State policies for rationing health care during the coronavirus pandemic could allow doctors to cut off treatment for some of the sickest patients in hot zones and revive the specter of so-called death panels, say disabled rights groups who are urging the Trump administration to intervene.
The effort has recently gained urgency due to guidelines in Texas and Arizona that let doctors base treatment decisions on factors like a patient’s quality of life if they survive, or the odds they’ll live at least five years. The advocacy groups since March have filed an unprecedented 11 complaints with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights, which has mediated four cases and could add more as Covid-19 continues to spread across most of the country.
But the issue gained new resonance in June, when an Austin, Texas, hospital halted treatment of a quadriplegic patient who contracted Covid-19 and moved him to hospice care, where he died. ADAPT of Texas filed a complaint to HHS in late July seeking an investigation into the decision-making about the patient, Michael Hickson, which ran counter to his wife’s wishes.