ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 26, 2021 Toronto: There are frightening and indefensible new problems with the Ford Government’s plans for how to decide who lives and who dies if the COVID-19 pandemic overloads Ontario hospitals, leading to rationing or “triage” of life-saving critical care. This is revealed in an exhaustive new report made public today. This thoroughly researched report reveals that:
1. It is dangerous to relegate concern about Ontario’s critical care triage plans to the back burner, just because COVID infection rates are reducing and vaccines are gradually being distributed. There remains a real risk of another COVID-19 surge. A senior medical advisor to the Government advisor said on January 23, 2021 that such triage may already be taking place.
2. A seriously flawed, disability-discriminatory and highly objectionable online calculator has been created for triage doctors to determine who will be refused life-saving critical care during triage or rationing of critical care. Such an online calculator’s computation, based on a doctor’s keying in data, should never decide that a patient should be refused life-saving critical care they need. This is especially so when that online calculator discriminates against some patients based on their disability.
3. If hospitals start rationing or triaging critical care, there is a danger that some emergency medical technicians (EMTs) may improperly refuse to give a patient critical care they need and want before the patient even gets to the hospital an improper backdoor trickle-down form of critical care triage.
4. A transparently erroneous legal strategy has been devised for defending the legality of Ontario’s critical care triage plan. Triage doctors, hospitals and the Ontario Government are expected to argue that no one can sue them if a triage doctor refuses to give life-saving critical care to a patient who needs it and wants it, so long as they are following the January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol (a protocol that is rife with serious problems that the AODA Alliance and other disability advocates have previously identified). They plan to say that because that document is called a “standard of care” for triage doctors (an inappropriate label for it), it provides a full defence. This new report shows that that legal defence strategy is fatally flawed.
5. A troubling January 23, 2021 webinar to train frontline critical care triage doctors wrongly minimizes the enormity of the role doctors would play, while they are making life-and-death decisions over which patients would get life-saving critical care, if critical care triage takes place. That webinar harmfully and wrongly tries to convince triage doctors not to worry about being sued, so long as they follow the January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol. At the same time, that webinar did not alert frontline doctors to the serious disability discrimination and due process concerns that disability advocates have raised with the directions that those frontline doctors are being told to implement if critical care triage is to occur.
“We agree that Ontario must be prepared for the possibility of critical care triage, but Ontario’s plan must include a lawfully mandated triage protocol that does not violate the Charter of Rights or the Ontario Human Rights Code by discriminating against people with disabilities, who have already disproportionately suffered the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said David Lepofsky, Chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance, which campaigns for accessibility for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. “This report confirms that the Ford Government has been hearing from health professionals and their insurance representatives, but the Government needs to end its embargo on directly talking to disability community voices about this important issue. We’ve written the Ford Government, calling on it to rescind the disability-discriminatory January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol.”
Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected]
For more background on this issue, check out:
1. The AODA Alliance’s new February 25, 2021 independent report on Ontario’s plans for critical care triage if hospitals are overwhelmed by patients needing critical care, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/a-deeply-troubling-issue-of-life-and-death-an-independent-report-on-ontarios-seriously-flawed-plans-for-rationing-or-triage-of-critical-medical-care-if-covid-19-overwhelms-ontario-hospitals/ and the AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2021 letter to the Ford Government, sending it that report. 2. The January 13, 2021 triage protocol.
3. The Government’s earlier external advisory Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol, finally revealed last month.
4. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, detailing its efforts to tear down barriers in the health care system facing patients with disabilities, and our COVID-19 page, detailing our efforts to address the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.