Hospitals cannot dole out medical supplies based on disability, limited English skills or religious beliefs, the Department of Health and Human Services says in a new guidance.
The department’s Office of Civil Rights reaffirmed protections for a range of federally protected classes amid the health crisis, in which supply lines for masks, testing kits and ventilators and long and strained.
“Persons with disabilities, with limited English skills, or needing religious accommodations should not be put at the end of the line for health services during emergencies,” said office director Roger Severino. “Our civil rights laws protect the equal dignity of every human life from ruthless utilitarianism.”
The guidance did note that “some actions or accommodations” may not be legally necessary if they generate undue financial costs or “fundamentally alter the nature of a program” — a point that drew criticism from Patients Rights Action Fund, a group opposed to euthanasia.
“It is unthinkable, however, that the HHS General Counsel could limit the scope of this guidance by providing a caveat that there may be immunity from enforcement of civil rights laws in crisis,” said Matt Valliere, executive director of Patients Rights Action Fund. “In the face of this pandemic, the inherent value of vulnerable people must be reaffirmed.”
HHS encouraged anyone with a civil rights complaint to email (OCRMail@hhs.gov) or call 1-800–368–1019 for more information.