Lack of State Guidance Puts People with Disabilites at Risk During COVID-19 Outbreak

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July 1, 2020

Edie Surtees
Communications Director
512-407-2739 (office)

State Lack of Guidance Means People with Disabilities At Risk of Being Denied Lifesaving Care
Texas Officials Urged to Ensure Compliance with Federal Disability Law During COVID-19 Outbreak

AUSTIN—Today, Disability Rights Texas again urges Governor Abbott and state health officials to swiftly issue statewide guidance to ensure that lifesaving medical care is allocated consistent with federal disability law. The time for action is now, as Texas sees significant increases in positive COVID-19 cases and in hospitalizations, and with Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin ICUs at or near capacity. Without prompt action by state officials, persons with disabilities are at grave risk of being unlawfully denied lifesaving medical care or of losing access to their own life-sustaining equipment.

“Treatment decisions must be based on an individualized assessment of the patient and the best available medical advice, not on stereotypes or subjective judgments about quality of life or the patient’s relative worth based on their disabilities,” said Lisa Snead, Supervising Attorney at Disability Rights Texas.

Disability Rights Texas and more than a dozen other advocacy groups first asked state officials in April to act on this critical issue, warning that if they failed to issue timely guidance “that protects the lives of Texans with disabilities, there will be no way to undo the lethal outcomes that may result should healthcare rationing begin in Texas.”  State officials never acted on the request.

As such, Disability Rights Texas is again asking the Governor and his state health officials in a letter sent today to protect the lives of Texans with disabilities by issuing statewide guidance “that expressly prohibits the rationing of healthcare resources in a manner that discriminates against individuals with disabilities and violates federal non-discrimination laws.”  As today’s letter says, “what might have seemed unnecessary in April is, we believe, clearly urgent today.”

Attached below are today’s letter and the April 6 letter (with proposed guidance) sent to the Governor.

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Disability Rights Texas (previously named Advocacy Inc.) is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas. Its mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society.

Attached documents