Ontario Human Rights Commission Again Commendably Raises Human Rights Concerns with Ontario’s Critical Care Triage Plans, While the Ontario College of Physicians And surgeons Appears to Wrongly — Green Light Those Plans The AODA Alliance Responds!


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: https://www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

April 23, 2021

^ SUMMARY

Things are moving fast on the terrifying critical care triage front. The AODA Alliance and the disability organizations with whom we are collaborating are trying to stay ahead of a potential tidal wave facing us all.

^What’s New?

1. We understand that within the past two days, the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons wrote all Ontario Physicians. If our information is correct,, the College gave doctors the green light, if the Ontario Government directs it, to refuse or withdraw critical care in accordance with the critical care triage protocol which we have repeatedly blasted as disability-discriminatory.

We have just written the College of Physicians to ask for confirmation of this. If it is accurate, then we strongly object to this action, and ask the College to rescind it. The College is the self-governing professional body that licenses and regulates physicians in Ontario. As our letter, set out below, explains, the College never got our input on our serious disability-related concerns about Ontario’s disability-discriminatory critical care triage protocol and plans.

2. On this same front, today the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Ena Chadha, has commendably issued another public statement on this critical care triage issue. We set it out below, as well. She reiterates the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s serious concerns with the Ontario Government’s critical care triage plans.

3. Yesterday our April 8, 2021 news release raised concerns about the possibility that the Ford Government might agree in advance to indemnify doctors if they deny critical care to a patient who needs it, should critical care triage be directed in Ontario. Beyond that news release, there are so many ramifications if the Government takes this step.

For one thing, it will implicate the Government directly in any patient’s death that results from critical care triage. We would argue that that is the case, even without any indemnification arrangement with doctors. However, an indemnification arrangement cements it even more.

Will the Government give doctors a blank check in advance, paying all their damages claims and paying for their defence lawyers, no matter how a doctor acts when deciding who lives and who dies? Why is the Government not removing the flagrant disability discrimination from the January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol, both because it is wrong, and because the taxpayer should not be giving physicians a guaranteed advanced blank check for such human rights violations. It certainly seems that the public should have some say in this life and death issue.

For more background
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.

2. Ontario’s January 13, 2021 triage protocol.

3. The eight unanswered letters from the AODA Alliance to the Ford Government on its critical care triage plan, including the AODA Alliance’s September 25, 2020 letter, its November 2, 2020 letter, its November 9, 2020 letter, its December 7, 2020 letter, its December 15, 2020 letter, its December 17, 2020 letter, its January 18, 2021 letter and its February 25, 2021 letter to Health Minister Christine Elliott.

4. The Government’s earlier external advisory Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol, finally revealed in December 2020.

5. 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.

^ MORE DETAILS

^April 9, 2021 Letter from the AODA Alliance to the Registrar and CEO of the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Dr. Nancy Whitmore, Registrar and CEO
Via email: [email protected]; [email protected]

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
80 College Street
Toronto, Ontario M5G 2E2

Dear Dr. Whitmore,

Re: Possibility of Rationing or Triage of Critical Care in Ontario

We write to ask about the position of the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons on Ontario’s plans for critical care triage if COVID-19 overwhelms hospitals, requiring rationing of critical care. We are especially concerned that those plans include flagrant disability discrimination, a lack of required due process for vulnerable patients whose lives are at stake, and a troubling failure to respect basic legal requirements.

We understand that the College of Physicians and Surgeons appears to have sent an email to all licensed physicians in Ontario within the past 48 hours on the topic of critical care triage. It is our understanding that this email states in material part as follows:

“Critical Care Triage

If we reach a point where Ontario’s critical care capacity can no longer meet the surge in demand, what are physicians’ obligations with respect to the withholding or withdrawal of potentially life-saving or life-sustaining care?

The College appreciates how challenging the pandemic has and continues to be for physicians working in critical care capacities. If the pandemic worsens and intensive care admissions increase, physicians may be faced with very difficult decisions regarding the allocation of scarce resources. It is essential that physicians be supported in making the extraordinary decisions they may be faced with and that the public trust how those decisions are being made.

The College notes that the provincial government has enabled a centralized authority, its command tables, to manage, oversee and co-ordinate the implementation of appropriate critical care triage tools should this become necessary. While only the provincial government can take the steps necessary to enable physicians to withdraw life-sustaining treatment without consent in order to re-allocate those resources to another patient, the College recognizes that issues concerning withholding potentially life-saving or life-sustaining treatments may also arise.

Given the imperative of allocating critical care resources in a manner that aims to save as many lives as possible, the College acknowledges that physicians may, in following direction and guidance from the command tables, need to withhold potentially life-saving or life-sustaining treatments in a manner that departs from the expectations set out in our Planning for and Providing_Quality_ End-of -Life Care policy. To the degree that compliance with triage frameworks, once initiated by the provincial command tables, results in departures from these expectations, the College is supportive of physicians acting in accordance with the command tables’ triage protocols. Transparent and sensitive communication with patients’ families will continue to be of paramount importance in these situations.”

Can you please confirm whether this is what the College has written to all Ontario doctors? If it is not, please let us know what the College has directed physicians on this topic.

If this or words to like effect are what the College has directed, we ask that the College immediately and publicly rescind it. It fails to take into account or even acknowledge the clear disability discrimination and denials of due process in Ontario’s critical care triage plans, which are contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights. Numerous serious human rights concerns with Ontario’s critical care triage plans have been repeatedly and publicly voiced by respected disability organizations like the AODA Alliance, the ARCH Disability Law Centre and others, as well as by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Our efforts on this issue are extensively documented on our website’s health care page.

Before the College gives the Ontario Government’s critical care triage plans an official regulatory stamp of approval, it should, at a minimum, speak with those of us who are raising such serious concerns, and effectively take our concerns into account. We most recently crystalized many of those concerns in the AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2021 report on Ontario’s critical care triage plans.

We regret that the Ontario Health Ministry and Minister has not met with us, or even responded to our detailed correspondence on point. We have been relegated to the Government’s external advisory Bioethics Table. That Table makes no decisions, and has wrongly rejected key concerns that disability advocates have raised, too often without any explanation. After August 31, 2020, we did not had any meetings with that Bioethics Table except one on December 17, 2020. Our input at that last meeting appears to have been largely if not totally rejected, again, without reasons.

From the content of the Colleges statement which we quote above, if correct, it would appear that the Government and those acting on its behalf must have had direct content with the College in this connection. Can you please let us know what specific input, if any, the College itself has received regarding our disability concerns, and what input, if any, the College gave the Ontario Government about disability concerns with the critical care triage plans.

Making this situation worse, frontline doctors and hospitals have been urged to rely on the triage protocol, in a seriously flawed and misleading January, 23 2021 on-line webinar. For example, that webinar told doctors that the Ontario Human Rights Commission was consulted on this protocol, but did not tell them that the Commission and community groups have serious human rights objections to it.

It is our position that physicians who act pursuant to Ontario’s critical care triage plan and protocol do so at their peril. We share the view that there must be public trust and transparency in this issue. It has to date been mired in protracted secrecy as well as questionable public statements by the Government and those who have publicly defended Ontario’s critical care triage plans.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario is required to regulate physicians in the public interest, protecting patients. The College should take a position on this critical care triage issue that is fully respectful of the rights and needs of vulnerable patients whose very lives are at stake during critical care triage.

We would welcome the chance to meet to provide the College with the input and information it should consider to take an informed and appropriate position on this issue.

Please stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Twitter: @davidlepofsky

cc:
Premier Doug Ford [email protected]
Christine Elliott, Minister of Health, [email protected] Helen Angus, Deputy Minister of Health [email protected] Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility [email protected]
Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility [email protected]
Mary Bartolomucci, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]
Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services [email protected]
Janet Menard, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services [email protected]
Ena Chadha, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission [email protected]

^April 9, 2021 Public Statement by Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission

Hello,

Today, the Ontario Human Rights Commission issued the following statement by Chief Commissioner Ena Chadha on human rights concerns with COVID-19 critical care triage:

April 9, 2021

OHRC statement on urgent human rights concerns with critical care triage

Unfortunately, Ontario is in its third wave of COVID-19.During its April 7 press conference to announce a stay-at-home order, the Ontario government emphasized that ICU admissions are increasing faster than the “worst-case scenario” predicted by their experts. The government also said it has not sanctioned any triage protocol should doctors be forced to decide who gets access to critical care and who does not.And last night, Ontario Health ordered hospitals to postpone non-urgent surgeries because of the growing caseload of COVID-19 patients.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) urgently calls on the government to clarify the statusof the Adult Critical Care Clinical Emergency Standard of Care for Major Surge protocol (the Emergency Standard of Care) that was circulated to hospitals in January. The governmentmust also confirmthat theHealth Care Consent Actprevails to protect the rights of patients and families at this time. Further, government should require hospitals to promptly collect data on vulnerable groups most affected by the pandemic, including older people, people with disabilities, Indigenous peoples and Black and other racialized people admitted to ICUs and whenever critical care is withheld or withdrawn.

Over the past year, the OHRC has repeatedly raised concerns about various versions of the triage protocol and the Emergency Standard of Care, including writing to the government last November and December.

On March 1, the OHRC highlighted concerns that the Emergency Standard of Care document and supplementary materials (such as an online short-term mortality risk calculator) included potentially discriminatory content, and called on the government to not implement Emergency Standard of Care without sufficient public input or consultation. The OHRC alsocalledon the government to publicly release and consult human rights stakeholders, including the OHRC, on the latest versions of the proposed critical care triage framework to make sure that this document and the Emergency Standard of Care, were consistent with and uphold the OntarioHuman Rights Code. We asked the government to do this before a potential third wave overwhelmed Ontario’s health-care system. Regrettably, that did not happen.

As the pandemic continues, the need to reflect human rights principles and respect human rights obligations in every response is greater than ever before.

We must ensurethat vulnerable groups disproportionately affected by the pandemic are not further disadvantaged by measures taken to manage critical care services in the days and weeks to come.

Ena Chadha
Chief Commissioner




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New Brunswick mom says son’s human rights have been violated, hires lawyer – New Brunswick


A New Brunswick mother whose son with disabilities went missing from his school says she is planning to file a formal complaint against the school and the district.

Jacqueline Petricca of Bouctouche, N.B. says she is still shaken up over what happened to her son at Blanche-Bourgeois School last month.

“It was the most terrifying almost two hours of my life,” Petricca said.

Petricca says that even though her 11-year-old son, Anthony — who has ADHD, Tourette syndrome and OCD and may be on the autism spectrum — is a known flight risk, he went missing from school on March 24.

Read more:
New Brunswick mother seeks answers, support after disabled son goes missing for hours from school

“I had no idea where he was. I did not know if he has gotten into a car with anybody or what had happened,” she said.

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Anthony was found safe at a nearby business almost two hours after going missing, she says.

Now, the mother has hired a lawyer and is planning to file a formal complaint against the school and the district for not providing proper full-time support for her son.

“If there was a true inclusion program, then my son would not be on a half-accommodated day, just two to three hours,” she said.

According to the mother, a psychologist has told her that since Anthony is not classified as a complex case, all of the supports that are recommended and required are not going to be paid for until he gets that classification. She says she has been waiting for a meeting with the district for months to have her son evaluated.

A representative from the Francophone Sud School District, Ghislaine Arsenault, would not comment on the incident, citing privacy reason, but said in a statement to Global News that “staff members work very hard to ensure student safety and to provide students with an environment that promotes their overall development and well being.”

Read more:
N.B. family seeks community support for son’s rehab equipment

Petricca says her son’s full-time educational assistant (EA) support was taken away in February 2019, which she believes was for budgetary reasons.

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Fredericton lawyer and former education minister, Jody Carr, says the school “failed to protect” Anthony when he ran away from the school. He also alleges Anthony was denied his accommodations and failed to provide timely intervention for his disabilities, which Carr says is a violation of the student’s rights.

“Just based on disability, he is being denied a service and he is being denied an education and the human rights act says that no one can be denied an education based on their disability,” said Carr.

Anthony says he wants to return to school full-time.

“I would be willing to even without the EA,” he said.

But his mom says he needs appropriate supports in place before that can happen. Otherwise, she fears he may go missing again.

Since Global News reported their story, Petricca says the district reached out and she will be meeting with a clinical team to access Anthony’s needs on Friday. She says she will also be having a Zoom meeting with Education Minister Dominic Cardy on Thursday.

“The ultimate goal it is to have him in a program where he is safe all day and educated,” she said.


Click to play video: 'Program helping Moncton youth with disabilities find work'







Program helping Moncton youth with disabilities find work


Program helping Moncton youth with disabilities find work – Mar 18, 2021




© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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What is the Ontario Human Rights Code?


Under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR), organizations must comply with the standards of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). In addition, they must also follow requirements under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code). In other words, the AODA and the Code work together to promote accessibility and reduce discrimination in Ontario.

What is the Ontario Human Rights Code?

The Ontario Human Rights Code protects people from discrimination in five sectors of society. One of these sectors is employment. For instance, the Code protects people from discrimination in:

  • Full-time work
  • Part-time work
  • Short-term or contract work
  • Work probation
  • Volunteer work
  • Student internships
  • Special employment programs

Similarly, the Code protects people’s right to freedom from discrimination when renting housing, including:

  • Private rental housing
  • Cooperative housing
  • Social housing
  • Supportive or assisted housing

Likewise, the Code requires freedom from discrimination when people access goods, services, and facilities in the public or private sector, including:

  • Insurance
  • Schools
  • Restaurants
  • Transportation
  • Police
  • Healthcare
  • Social services
  • Shopping

Furthermore, people have the right not to experience discrimination during membership in unions, professional associations, or trade unions, including:

  • Joining
  • Terms and conditions of membership

Finally, people have the right to contract with others free from discrimination, including:

  • Offers of entering into contracts
  • Accepting contracts
  • Prices
  • Rejecting contracts

In short, the Code protects people from discrimination in employment, housing, business dealings, and other services. Therefore, under the Code, organizations must prevent discrimination in all these areas. Moreover, they must also respond to discrimination when it happens.

Grounds of Discrimination

Under the Code, people and organizations cannot discriminate on the basis of:

  • Age
  • Ancestry, colour, or race
  • Citizenship
  • Ethnic origin
  • Place of origin
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Family status
  • Marital status
  • Gender identity, or gender expression
  • Receiving government assistance (for housing)
  • Record of offences (in employment)
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Consequently, when people experience discrimination at work, in housing, or in the other areas that the code covers, they can claim discrimination before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO). Moreover, according to the HRTO, most human rights claims are made on the grounds of disability.

In addition, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is an organization that promotes, protects, and advances human rights throughout the province. For instance, the OHRC writes policies to help people understand what types of discrimination are, and how to prevent and respond to them. Furthermore, these policies include guidelines, best practices, and examples to show organizations how to create spaces and services that respect the rights of all people.

In our next series of articles, we will explore how the Ontario Human Rights Code protects people from discrimination on the basis of disability. We will outline how the Code’s mandates support people with disabilities and their loved ones to live, work, and be part of their communities.




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Ontario Human Rights Commission Echoes More Serious Concerns with the Ontario Critical Care Triage Plan – Will the Ford Government Start to Listen This Time?


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: https://www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Ontario Human Rights Commission Echoes More Serious Concerns March 2, 2021

SUMMARY

The pressure on the Ford Government mounts even more to open up, publicly discuss and substantially revise its seriously flawed plans for rationing or triage of critical medical care if the COVID-19 pandemic overloads hospitals. On March 1, 2021, the Ontario Human Rights Commission wrote the Ford Government a strong letter, set out below. It echoes a number of our serious problems with the Ontario critical care triage plan. It specifically references concerns that have been raised by the AODA Alliance and the ARCH Disability Law Centre.

We commend the Ontario Human Rights Commission for this letter. We call on the Ford Government to come out of hiding, and address the serious concerns that we and the Ontario Human Rights Commission are raising.

If there must be a critical care triage plan and protocol, it must be legally valid and constitutional. It is not good enough for anyone to duck our concerns by simply taking the position that a critical care triage plan is needed. That one is needed does not justify its discriminating because of disability contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code and Charter of Rights, and its failing to provide due process to patients whose very lives are in jeopardy.

There is an urgent need for frontline doctors, being trained to conduct critical care triage, to be alerted to the serious human rights and constitutional violations that they could commit. As the AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2021 report on Ontario’s critical care triage plan reveals, a recent January 23, 2021 webinar for over 1,100 frontline doctors completely failed to alert those trainees to these issues. It misleadingly told those trainees that the Ontario Human Rights Commission was consulted on the development of Ontario’s critical care triage plan, without also alerting them that the Commission (along with community organizations like the AODA Alliance) raised serious human rights objections to that plan. The Commission’s letter, set out below, is yet more proof that such misleading training for critical care triage doctors risks real harm to patients with disabilities.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s letter refers to an earlier written submission on critical care triage that the Commission sent the Government-appointed Bioethics Table last December, and to a summary that the Bioethics Table prepared of a consultative roundtable that the Bioethics Table held on December 17, 2020 (in which the AODA Alliance participated). We set that summary out below, as well as the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s written submission that supplemented it, included as an appendix to that summary. We want to give you some information to help you read the summary of the December 17, 2020 roundtable that the Bioethics Table prepared:

1. Several key points that the AODA Alliance raised at that December 17, 2020 roundtable are set out in greater detail in the AODA Alliance’s unanswered December 17, 2020 letter to the Minister of Health.

2. The overwhelming point that came from the community groups at that roundtable made was that they had not had time to prepare for that rushed meeting, but had serious human rights concerns with the critical care framework we were shown. Since then, no such consultation has been held with community groups like the AODA Alliance by the Government, its Bioethics Table or its Ontario Critical Care COVID Command Centre. This is so even though the Government and its proxies and defenders in the medical world repeatedly claim that consultations are ongoing on the Ontario critical care triage plan.

3. As it turns out, we now know that the Ford Government and its Ontario Critical Care COVID Command Centre had already taken important steps towards its critical care triage plan by the time that the December 17, 2020 roundtable was being held. These steps were likely known to the Bioethics Table participants, but were not revealed to the AODA Alliance and other community groups taking part in that discussion.

For more background, check out:

1. The AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2021 report revealing new serious problems with the Ontario critical care triage plan, and its February 26, 2021 news release on that report.

2. The January 13, 2021 Ontario Critical Care Triage Protocol, which the Government has never revealed, and which we believe is only publicly downloadable from the AODA Alliance website.

3. The eight unanswered letters from the AODA Alliance to the Ford Government on its critical care triage plan, including the AODA Alliances September 25, 2020 letter, its November 2, 2020 letter, its November 9, 2020 letter, its December 7, 2020 letter, its December 15, 2020 letter, its December 17, 2020 letter, its January 18, 2021 letter and its February 25, 2021 letter to Health Minister Christine Elliott.

4. The Government’s earlier external advisory Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol, finally revealed last month.
5. 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. MORE DETAILS

March 1, 2021 Letter from the Ontario Human Rights Commission to the Ontario Government

The Honourable Christine Elliott
Minister of Health
College Park 5th Floor, 777 Bay Street
Toronto, ON M7A 2J3

Dear Minister Elliott:
RE: Follow-up on critical care triage Ongoing human rights concerns and the need for public consultation
I hope this letter finds you well. Thank you for speaking with me in December 2020 and confirming your commitment to human rights and your interest in ensuring that our stakeholders’ concerns are appropriately heard. As you know, since April 2020, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has voiced the importance of respecting human rights when triaging critical care during the pandemic. The OHRC has sought to promote an equity-sensitive approach that is fair, transparent and founded on human rights principles.
Since last year, the OHRC has called on the Government to publicly release and consult with human rights stakeholders on various iterations of the critical care triage protocol and framework. Throughout this time, the OHRC has undertaken all best efforts to support the COVID-19 Bioethics Table in its work to revise a triage framework that respects human rights.
We are writing to highlight certain issues about the most recent triage-related documents that the Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre has disseminated to health-care administrators and, once again, to offer our support to your Ministry in hopes of ensuring that the concerns and interests of human rights stakeholders will be heard.
As you know, last December, the OHRC worked collaboratively with the COVID-19 Bioethics Table to facilitate a consultation with human rights stakeholders on the September 11 version of the proposed triage framework document. The Bioethics Table prepared a summary of the meeting and circulated it to participants. The summary also included an appendix prepared by the OHRC summarizing its recommendations for the Bioethics Table and your Ministry’s consideration.
Early this year, the OHRC obtained a copy of the Emergency Standard of Care dated January 13, 2021. We also obtained copies of related supplementary materials on the Emergency Standard of Care:
Template letters to be sent to patients informing them they will not receive critical care and/or that critical care is being withdrawn without their consent
An online short-term mortality risk calculator with digitized clinical tools to assess mortality
Critical Care Services Ontario’s January 23, 2021, webinar and slide deck to help disseminate the Emergency Standard of Care within the sector.
While the OHRC appreciates that the Emergency Standard of Care refers to human rights principles and obligations in its introduction, we remain concerned about the following issues that we raised earlier:
The reliance on a 12-month predicted mortality timeline is excessive and risks discriminatory biases
The use of clinical assessment tools not validated for critical care triage also risks discriminatory bias
The need to account for the human rights duty to accommodate throughout the decision-making process including when assessing a patient’s predicted mortality
The need to ensure the legal right to due process and transparency for triaging decisions, including an effective mechanism for the right to appeal a decision that disproportionately impacts the right to life of vulnerable groups
The need to ensure appropriate human rights training and guidance for healthcare service providers so that they can implement the standard equitably and effectively.
Further, while the OHRC appreciates that the Emergency Standard of Care is intended to be an evergreen document, we are concerned that this document and supplementary materials (including the online short-term mortality risk calculator) are being shared within the health-care sector with potentially discriminatory content and without sufficient public input or consultation. We are also concerned that the previous March 2020 version of the protocol, which was intended to be rescinded in October 2020, may still be in circulation and relied upon by health-care partners, particularly given something to this effect was noted in the above-cited January 23, 2021, webinar regarding emergency/ambulance services.

Stakeholders including ARCH Disability Law Centre and the AODA Alliance have expressed serious concerns that the government may act on calls for an emergency order to suspend certain provisions of the Health Care Consent Act, allowing doctors to withdraw patients from critical care without their consent, or that of their families or substitute decision-makers, and without independent oversight.
The OHRC understands that granting doctors such decision-making power is an extraordinary measure and one the Government will not take lightly. The OHRC also understands that your Ministry wishes to ensure that human rights stakeholders concerns are properly considered and understood. In light of this, we cannot overstate that even if the Government does not issue an emergency order, the lack of transparency regarding the status of the Emergency Standard of Care, plans regarding next steps and questions regarding due process are causing grave concern among vulnerable groups. We believe these concerns must be addressed immediately, particularly given the existence of new, highly transmissible variants of COVID-19.
The OHRC believes that now is the time to act to make sure that frameworks and protocols for triage decisions that are consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code are in place before a potential third wave overwhelms Ontario’s health-care system.
We call on the Government to publicly release and consult human rights stakeholders including the OHRC on the latest versions of the proposed triage framework and the Emergency Standard of Care. There is an urgent need to make sure that vulnerable groups who may be disproportionately affected have an opportunity to share their perspectives while there is still time, and before the proposed triage framework and/or Emergency Standard of Care and related materials are finalized. Sincerely,

Ena Chadha, LL.B., LL.M.
Chief Commissioner

cc: Helen Angus, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Health
Matthew Anderson, President and CEO of Ontario Health Jennifer Gibson, Co-Chair, COVID-19 Bioethics Table
Dr. Andrew Baker, Incident Commander, Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre Hon. Doug Downey, Attorney General
David Corbett, Deputy Attorney General, Ministry of the Attorney General OHRC Commissioners

Ontario Government’s Bioethics Table Summary of Its December 17 2020 Roundtable on Critical Care Triage

Stakeholder Roundtable

Critical Care Triage During Major Surge in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Proposed Framework for Ontario

Summary Report

Prepared by:
Jennifer Gibson, PhD (Co-Chair, Bioethics Table)
Dianne Godkin, PhD (Co-Chair, Bioethics Table)
21 December 2020

Introduction
On December 17th, the Ontario COVID-19 Bioethics Table (the Bioethics Table) and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) co-convened a roundtable with human rights stakeholders (Appendix 1) to review and provide feedback on the Ontario COVID-19 Bioethics Table’s Critical Care Triage During Major Surge in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Proposed Framework for Ontario (the Proposed Framework). The Proposed Framework was developed iteratively from March to August 2020 (Appendix 2) and submitted with recommendations for next steps to the Ministry of Health and Ontario Health in September 2020. An earlier version of the framework, which had been developed and released to Ontario hospitals in March 2020, was never implemented and was subsequently rescinded on October 29th.
The roundtable was facilitated by Dr. Kwame McKenzie (CEO, Wellesley Institute). Representatives from the Office of the Minister of Health, the Ministry of Health, Ontario Health and the COVID-19 Ontario Critical Care Command Centre were in attendance as observers. As laid out by Dr. McKenzie, the roundtable aimed to ensure: 1) that all human rights stakeholders were able to share their views on the Proposed Framework; 2) that their concerns were heard by the Ministry, Ontario Health, Critical Care Command Centre representatives and by Bioethics Table members; and 3) that there was clarity on how the Proposed Framework could be improved. Roundtable participants were also provided with links to recent publications on the topic of critical care triage and associated frameworks/protocols in Canada and elsewhere (Appendix 3).

This report provides a high-level summary of key issues and concerns raised by roundtable participants and potential actions identified by roundtable participants to address these issues and concerns. It is not exhaustive of all that was discussed at the roundtable. It is intended to reflect the most urgent issues and concerns around which there was broad agreement among roundtable participants in the immediate context of Wave 2 of the COVID-19 pandemic. The OHRC has also provided an outline of its recommendations (Appendix 4). It was acknowledged by all that there are systemic health inequities that will require long-term solutions that are outside of the scope of critical care triage during a pandemic.

Key Issues/Concerns and Potential Actions

Roundtable participants stressed the paramount importance of a non-discriminatory, equitable, and culturally safe critical care triage approach. COVID-19 has already had a disproportionate negative impact on many of the communities represented by roundtable participants. Pre-existing historical and social inequities in health outcomes and negative experiences of the healthcare system further exacerbate these impacts. Some may experience intersectionality, the cumulative impact of belonging to more than one disadvantaged group (e.g., a racialized person who also has a disability). For Indigenous communities, it is not just a matter of individual survival, but of cultural survival if an Indigenous knowledge keeper becomes ill and dies. Participants raised concerns that there has been limited engagement of disability, older adults, Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities, arguably those who have been most significantly impacted during the pandemic, in all aspects of pandemic planning and that this has resulted in unsatisfactory and unsafe care. The possibility of triage raises significant fears that these historical and social inequities will be magnified if actions are not taken to implement a critical care triage process that is non-discriminatory. Participants were very concerned that they only had one week to review the Proposed Framework and had difficulty understanding some aspects of the document. Consequently, further engagement and stakeholder consultation is required. A general observation of the Proposed Framework raised by participants is that is not sufficiently prescriptive in describing what must be done.

The following Table summarizes the most urgent issues and concerns and potential actions identified by roundtable participants:

1. Human Rights and Non-Discrimination as Legal ObligationsIssue: Roundtable participants need greater assurance that decisions related to critical care triage will be made in alignment with human rights codes and will be non-discriminatory.

Potential actions:
> Articulate non-discrimination/human rights as the primary overarching legal obligation used to guide the critical care triage process.

2. Equity as a Positive ObligationIssue: Although equity is identified as an important ethical principle in the Proposed Framework, roundtable participants emphasized the need for a positive obligation to promote equity and for concreteness and clarity on how equity would actually be enacted in practice. It was recognized that under conditions of great stress during a major surge in demand for critical care, unconscious bias is likely to be activated unless steps are taken to support clinicians in promoting equity.

Potential actions:
> Develop an equity-based checklist tool that healthcare providers must review and consider during the assessment stage of the triage process to help them account for the impact of social determinants of health and pre-existing co-morbidities due to social and historical inequities in the care of their patients.
> Make requirements for accommodations for persons with disabilities or to address communication barriers explicit, including allowing a support person to be present as needed.
> Ensure all who are involved in critical care triage process receive anti-racism, anti-bias (e.g., anti-ageism, anti-ableism), and Indigenous cultural safety training and/or have access to tools and resources (e.g., see checklist above) to minimize the risk of unconscious bias.

3. Legal Framework for Critical Care Triage During a Major Surge Issue: Critical care triage during a major surge would deviate from current legal and regulatory standards, particularly in relation to withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment without consent. Roundtable participants underscored the need for a legal framework to justify the critical care triage approach and to protect both healthcare providers and patients. Any liability protections for healthcare providers should require that they have acted in accordance with this legal framework and with the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Potential actions:
> Develop a legal framework for critical care during a major surge, including key elements of due process.

4. Critical Care Triage Decision-making Process and Clinical Assessment ToolsIssue: Roundtable participants expressed a need for critical care triage decision-making processes and clinical assessment tools to be outlined in greater detail and communicated in a transparent manner to patients and the public. While there was general agreement that for the purposes of triage decisions, clinical assessment should focus on predicted short-term mortality risk, specific concerns were raised about using 12-months as the time frame for predicted short-term mortality and about the validity of the tools for Indigenous persons and other marginalized persons. Roundtable participants also emphasized the need for critical care triage decisions to be transparent.

Potential actions:
> Engage stakeholders in the identification/adaptation of clinical tools to ensure they are culturally appropriate.
> Reduce the duration of short-term predicted mortality risk from 12 months to a lesser time period.
> Include individuals (e.g., community leaders) outside of the medical profession in the implementation of the critical care triage decision-making process (e.g., as supports to patients in clinical decision-making; as members of the Triage Teams described in the Proposed Framework; as members of appeals committees).
> Develop accessible communication tools tailored to the needs of particular groups to foster understanding and trust.

5. Right to AppealIssue: Given the significance of the decision to withhold or withdraw critical care resources from a patient, roundtable participants underscored the need for a timely appeal process as an important safeguard to uphold non-discrimination.

Potential actions:
> Establish an external appeals process by a third party.

6. Development of Interim Protocol for Wave 2Issue: Given the increasing hospitalizations in Wave 2, roundtable participants underscored the urgency of having a non-discriminatory, legally sanctioned, and effective triage protocol in place in the event that there is a major surge in demand for critical care in the coming weeks or months. Absent an interim protocol, roundtable participants acknowledged that clinicians would be left unsupported in the triage decision-making process and Indigenous, Black and other racialized patients and persons with disabilities would be placed at significant risk of harm. The interim protocol would be subject to further revisions and include ongoing engagement and co-development with key stakeholders.

Potential actions:
> Develop an interim protocol in collaboration with human rights stakeholders and critical care providers. The interim protocol could be based on the institutional protocol created by the Ontario COVID-19 Critical Care Command Centre with modifications to reflect where there is broad human rights stakeholder agreement.
> Concurrently, continue stakeholder engagement to address unresolved issues and to advance elements of the Proposed Framework which may require more time to implement. APPENDIX 1: Roundtable Participants

Roundtable Facilitator:
Kwame McKenzie (CEO, Wellesley Institute)

Participants:
Nicole Blackman (Provincial Director, Indigenous Primary Health Care Council)
Avvy Go (Director, Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic)also provided written submission
James Janeiro (Director, Community Engagement and Policy, Community Living Toronto)
Trudo Lemmens (Professor & Scholl Chair in Health Law and Policy, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto) David Lepofsky (Chair, AODA Alliance)
Caroline Lidstone-Jones (CEO, Indigenous Primary Health Care Council) Roxanne Mykitiuk (Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University) Tracy Odell (President, Citizens with Disabilities)
Mariam Shanouda (Staff Lawyer, ARCH Disability Law Centre)
Jewelles Smith (Past-Chairperson, Council of Canadians with Disabilities)

Observers:
i) Office of the Minister of Health
Emily Beduz (Director, Pandemic Response)
Heather Potter (Director, Issues and Legislative Affairs)

ii) Ministry of Health
Tina Sakr (Team Lead, Priority and Acute Programs)
Jennifer Lee Arseneau (Senior Policy Advisor, Priority and Acute Programs)

iii) Ontario Health
Louise Verity (Strategic Advisor to the CEO)

iv) Ontario COVID-19 Critical Care Command Centre
Andrew Baker (Incident Commander)

v) Ontario Human Rights Commission
Ena Chadha (Chief Commissioner)
Violetta Igneski (Commissioner)
Raj Dhir (Executive Director and Chief Legal Counsel)
Shaheen Azmi (Director, Policy, Education, Monitoring & Outreach) Bryony Halpin (Senior Policy Analyst)
Jeff Poirier (Senior Policy Analyst)
Rita Samson (Senior Policy Analyst)

vi) Ontario COVID-19 Bioethics Table (in attendance)
Jennifer Gibson (Co-Chair; University of Toronto)
Dianne Godkin (Co-Chair; Trillium Health Partners)
Sally Bean (Toronto Region Bioethics Lead and Member; Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre) Cecile Bensimon (Member; Canadian Medical Association)
Carrie Bernard (Member; William Osler Health System, University of Toronto, McMaster University)
Nicole Blackman (*new member as of Dec 2020; Indigenous Primary Health Care Council)
Paula Chidwick (Central Region Bioethics Lead and Member; William Osler Health System)
James Downar (Member; The Ottawa Hospital, Bruyere Continuing Care, Ottawa Health Research Institute) Lisa Forman (Member; University of Toronto)
Mary Huska (North Region Bioethics Lead and Member; Health Sciences North) Michael Kekewich (East Region Bioethics Lead and Member; The Ottawa Hospital) Stephanie Nixon (Member; University of Toronto)
Nancy Ondrusek (Member; Public Health Ontario)
Lisa Schwartz (Member; McMaster University)
Robert Sibbald (Member; London Health Sciences; Western University) Maxwell Smith (Past Co-Chair and Member; Western University) Randi Zlotnik-Shaul (Member; Sick Kids Hospital)

vii) Students
Veromi Asiradam, JD Student, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University Ya-En Cheng, JD Student, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

viii) Recorder
Danielle Linnane (Quality Improvement Specialist, Ontario Health)

APPENDIX 2: Development of the Proposed Framework

The Critical Care Triage During Major Surge in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Proposed Framework for Ontario (the Proposed Framework) wasdevelopedbased on iterative review of the academic literature and published policy statements on critical care triage in a pandemic, consultation with clinical, legal, and other experts, and feedback from health system stakeholders. The Proposed Framework with recommendations for next steps was submitted to the Ministry of Health and Ontario Health in September 2020.

Development of the Proposed Framework was undertaken in three phases from March to December 2020:

In Phase 1, an initial draft framework was developed in March 2020 in response to an urgent need for the Ontario health system to prepare for the possibility of a major surge in demand for critical care as was being observed in Italy, Spain, and New York State. The initial draft, which was developed without the benefit of consultation with human rights stakeholders, among others, was released to hospitals on March 28 to aid planning. A major surge in demand for critical care was averted in Ontario. This draft framework was not implemented and was formally rescinded on October 29, 2020.

In Phase 2, extensive feedback on the initial draft framework was received in April 2020 through written submissions from diverse organizations and groups. Feedback was sent either directly to the Bioethics Table or to the Ministry of Health or Ontario Health and shared with the Bioethics Table. The Bioethics Table reviewed and considered all feedback and amended the document accordingly. Additional feedback was solicited from bioethics, health law, and clinical experts. An updated draft framework was developed in May 2020 based on new published findings in the literature, policy discussions in the public domain (e.g., policy statements), and written stakeholder feedback.

In Phase 3, the Bioethics Table began meeting with the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) in May 2020 and undertook an expanded stakeholder consultation process to elicit input from Black and other racialized groups, Indigenous health leaders, older adults, and disability rights experts. A first stakeholder roundtable was co-convened with the OHRC on July 15, 2020. Meetings continued through July and August with disability rights stakeholders and with the Indigenous Bioethics Reference Group of the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council. The Proposed Framework was informed extensively by these stakeholder discussions, an updated review of the literature and policy statements from civil society organizations (e.g., Canadian Association of Retired People), and additional input from health law and clinical experts. In December 2020, the Bioethics Table received approval to convene a second stakeholder roundtable to review and elicit feedback on the Proposed Framework. The roundtable took place on December 17, 2020.

The Proposed Framework documentis a green document within the overall COVID-19 pandemic response in Ontario.The process for developing an approach to critical care triage in the context of a major surge in demand must be sensitive and responsive to changing conditions, emerging evidence, and evolving understanding of the ethical, social, and legal implications of critical care triage for major surge in a pandemic. As such, this document should be subject to regular review and updating as appropriate.

Acknowledgments:

The Bioethics Table would like to acknowledge the substantive feedback, input, and advice of the following organizations through written submissions and/or stakeholder consultations (listed alphabetically):

AODA Alliance
ARCH Disability Law Centre
Black Health Committee, Alliance for Health Communities
Canadian Frailty Network
Canadian Geriatric Society
Canadian Medical Protective Association
Canadian Thoracic Society
Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Citizens with Disabilities Ontario
Clinical, Organization, and Research Ethics (CORE) Network and Provincial COVID-19 Bioethics Community of Practice University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics1 College of Nurses of Ontario
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
Community Living Toronto
Council of Canadians with Disabilities
COVID-19 Critical Care Command Centre and Provincial Critical Care Table, Ontario Health Indigenous Bioethics Reference Group, Indigenous Primary Health Care Council Muscular Dystrophy Canada
Ontario Hospital Association/HIROC
Ontario Human Rights Commission
Ontario Medical Association

The Bioethics Table has also benefited from the substantive feedback, input, and advice of individual scholars and practitioners with expertise in the following areas:

Clinical Medicine over 20 clinician experts in cancer care, cardiac care, complex continuing care, critical care, emergency medicine, geriatric medicine, neurology, stroke, thoracic medicine Health Equity
Health Law and Human Rights Law

**Please note that these acknowledgments do not signify endorsement of the Proposed Framework.**

APPENDIX 3: Roundtable Documents

The following is a list of recent publications, including government or policy documents, journal articles, and media reports, on the topic of critical care triage and associated frameworks/protocols in Canada and elsewhere. These were pre-circulated to roundtable participants for their information.

Critical Care Triage Frameworks/Protocols from Other Jurisdictions

1. Quebec Critical Care Triage Protocol (Nov 2020 In French)
2. Saskatchewan Health Authority Triage Working Group, Critical Care Resource Allocation Framework (Sept 2020)
3. Joint Commission on Triage Decisions for Severely Ill Patients During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Israel, July 2020)
4. COVID-19 rapid guideline: critical care in adults (UK-NHS, March 2020/updated Sept 2020)

Publicly Available Advocacy/Feedback related to Critical Care Triage

1. ARCH Disability Law Centre
2. AODA Alliance/ARCH Disability Law Centre
3. Ontario Human Rights Commission
4. Société québécoise de la déficience intellectuelle – English translation using Google Translate attached

Journal & Media Articles

1. Nouvelles directives pour l’attribution des respirateurs artificiels (Le Devoir) – English translation using Google Translate attached
2. Following controversy, Quebec revises rules for who gets intensive care treatment if resources are limited (CBC news)
3. Frailty Triage: Is Rationing Intensive Medical Treatment on the Grounds of Frailty Ethical? (American Journal of Bioethics)
4. Disability, Disablism, and COVID-19 Pandemic Triage (Journal of Bioethical Inquiry)
5. What the Chaos in Hospitals Is Doing to Doctors: Politicians’ refusal to admit when hospitals are overwhelmed puts a terrible burden on health-care providers (The Atlantic)
5. Using the Clinical Frailty Scale in Allocating Scarce Health Care Resources (Canadian Geriatrics Journal)
6. Ontario has a world-leading protocol that all provinces and territories should adopt to be truly ready for COVID-19’s second wave (Policy Options)
7. Proceed with caution with Ontario’s critical care triage protocol (Policy Options) APPENDIX 4: OHRC Recommendations

Summary of OHRC Feedback on Triage Framework
December 18, 2020

Interim Framework / Protocol

* The OHRC encourages the Ministry of Health to share the protocolized version of the Triage Framework that was sent to hospitals in Ontario and also make this document available to all stakeholders involved in the consultation.

* Without having seen this document, the OHRC is not in a position to assess whether the protocolized version could be adapted or whether an entirely new document needs to be developed to reflect stakeholder input and serve as an interim protocol. An interim protocol should be short, user friendly and developedwith a view to how it can be used ina crisis until further consultation can happen.

* The interim protocol could continue to evolveas a basis for further consultation on more complex and contentious issues. While not yet sanctioned by legislation or regulation, hospitals would have ready accessto a protocol that is reasonably acceptable to stakeholders if a major surge happens.

* An interim protocol could potentially address issues where there is agreement across stakeholder groups. The issues are, but not limited to:

o Ensure the protocol recognizes that human rights is the primary guiding principle and law in accordance with the primacy clause under section 47 of Ontario’s Human Rights Code (Code)

o Ensure there is a legislative basis for the protocol that will also provide for governance and accountability mechanisms including how to initiate the use of the protocol during a pandemic surge

o Exclude the Clinical Frailty Scale (CFS) and any other clinical assessment factors and tools that are not validated for critical care resource allocation. The Bioethics Table recognizes the CFS was designed and validated to help identify treatment plans and accommodation supports for frail patients, and not for critical care triage. Used as a triage tool, the CFS would likely disproportionately impact Code-protected groups and may be inconsistent with human rights obligations including the duty to accommodate

o Define short-term predicted mortality as the predicted risk of death in the initial weeks, and not twelve months after the onset of critical illness. The Bioethics Table recognizes that relatively little mortality occurs between six and twelve months

o Ensure a fair and efficient appeal mechanism

o Explicitly recognize the legal duty to accommodate including essential support persons / communications / interpreter access, etc.

o Mandate a clear procedure to document decisions that requires evidence-based written reasons. This could include a positive obligation checklist to account for issues of equity and the social determinants of health

o Require socio-demographic data collection to monitor for adverse application of the protocol

o Allow for human rights equity groupsto monitor, and provide feedback on the protocol.

The OHRC also agrees with the Bioethics Table’s recommendations that call on the Ministry of Health and Ontario Health to:

* Issue clear communications that health care providers must disregard and destroy the March 28 version of the protocol

* Circulate theproposed framework, including the clinical assessment factors and tools, for public feedback and independent legal review

* Convene amultidisciplinary panel, including experts in human rights and law to further develop, or refute, the clinical factors and tools identified in the proposed framework

* Engage health care partners to developguidance for implementing the protocolincluding clinical operations, communications, training, patient and clinician supports, data collection and monitoring

* Provide forgovernance and accountability mechanismsincluding responsibility for initiating the protocol, data collection and independent monitoring for adverse consequences

* Sustain equitable COVID-19 prevention efforts to avoid the need to initiate the protocol, and mitigate disproportionate impacts on vulnerable groups

* Meaningfully engage vulnerable groups, including Indigenous communities, Black and racialized communities, persons with disabilities, older persons and others for their perspectives and participation throughout the process to finalize and implement the protocol.

* Provide comprehensive training on the new protocol, including anti-bias education.
1 The CORE Network and the COVID-19 Bioethics Community of Practice comprise practicing bioethicists who work in a variety of health institutions, including hospitals, long term care homes, rehabilitation facilities, community care, and complex continuing care settings. Members have diverse disciplinary expertise (e.g., philosophy, law, anthropology) and clinical professions (e.g., medicine, nursing, social work, occupational therapy). CORE Network members are based in the Greater Toronto/Hamilton Area. The COVID-19 Bioethics Community of Practice draws practicing bioethicists from across the province of Ontario totalling >50 individuals. The University of Toronto Joint for Bioethics provides secretariat support for both the Core Network and the COVID-19 Bioethics Community of Practice.




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Ontario Human Rights Commission Echoes More Serious Concerns with the Ontario Critical Care Triage Plan – Will the Ford Government Start to Listen This Time?


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Ontario Human Rights Commission Echoes More Serious Concerns with the Ontario Critical Care Triage Plan – Will the Ford Government Start to Listen This Time?

March 2, 2021

            SUMMARY

The pressure on the Ford Government mounts even more to open up, publicly discuss and substantially revise its seriously flawed plans for rationing or triage of critical medical care if the COVID-19 pandemic overloads hospitals. On March 1, 2021, the Ontario Human Rights Commission wrote the Ford Government a strong letter, set out below. It echoes a number of our serious problems with the Ontario critical care triage plan. It specifically references concerns that have been raised by the AODA Alliance and the ARCH Disability Law Centre.

We commend the Ontario Human Rights Commission for this letter. We call on the Ford Government to come out of hiding, and address the serious concerns that we and the Ontario Human Rights Commission are raising.

If there must be a critical care triage plan and protocol, it must be legally valid and constitutional. It is not good enough for anyone to duck our concerns by simply taking the position that a critical care triage plan is needed. That one is needed does not justify its discriminating because of disability contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code and Charter of Rights, and its failing to provide due process to patients whose very lives are in jeopardy.

There is an urgent need for frontline doctors, being trained to conduct critical care triage, to be alerted to the serious human rights and constitutional violations that they could commit. As the AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2021 report on Ontario’s critical care triage plan reveals, a recent January 23, 2021 webinar for over 1,100 frontline doctors completely failed to alert those trainees to these issues. It misleadingly told those trainees that the Ontario Human Rights Commission was consulted on the development of Ontario’s critical care triage plan, without also alerting them that the Commission (along with community organizations like the AODA Alliance) raised serious human rights objections to that plan. The Commission’s letter, set out below, is yet more proof that such misleading training for critical care triage doctors risks real harm to patients with disabilities.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s letter refers to an earlier written submission on critical care triage that the Commission sent the Government-appointed Bioethics Table last December, and to a summary that the Bioethics Table prepared of a consultative roundtable that the Bioethics Table held on December 17, 2020 (in which the AODA Alliance participated). We set that summary out below, as well as the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s written submission that supplemented it, included as an appendix to that summary. We want to give you some information to help you read the summary of the December 17, 2020 roundtable that the Bioethics Table prepared:

  1. Several key points that the AODA Alliance raised at that December 17, 2020 roundtable are set out in greater detail in the AODA Alliance’s unanswered December 17, 2020 letter to the Minister of Health.
  1. The overwhelming point that came from the community groups at that roundtable made was that they had not had time to prepare for that rushed meeting, but had serious human rights concerns with the critical care framework we were shown. Since then, no such consultation has been held with community groups like the AODA Alliance by the Government, its Bioethics Table or its Ontario Critical Care COVID Command Centre. This is so even though the Government and its proxies and defenders in the medical world repeatedly claim that consultations are ongoing on the Ontario critical care triage plan.
  1. As it turns out, we now know that the Ford Government and its Ontario Critical Care COVID Command Centre had already taken important steps towards its critical care triage plan by the time that the December 17, 2020 roundtable was being held. These steps were likely known to the Bioethics Table participants, but were not revealed to the AODA Alliance and other community groups taking part in that discussion.

For more background, check out:

  1. The AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2021 report revealing new serious problems with the Ontario critical care triage plan, and its February 26, 2021 news release on that report.
  1. The January 13, 2021 Ontario Critical Care Triage Protocol, which the Government has never revealed, and which we believe is only publicly downloadable from the AODA Alliance website.
  1. The eight unanswered letters from the AODA Alliance to the Ford Government on its critical care triage plan, including the AODA Alliance‘s September 25, 2020 letter, its November 2, 2020 letter, its November 9, 2020 letter, its December 7, 2020 letter, its December 15, 2020 letter, its December 17, 2020 letter, its January 18, 2021 letter and its February 25, 2021 letter to Health Minister Christine Elliott.
  1. The Government’s earlier external advisory Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol, finally revealed last month.
  2. 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.

            MORE DETAILS

 March 1, 2021 Letter from the Ontario Human Rights Commission to the Ontario Government

The Honourable Christine Elliott

Minister of Health

College Park 5th Floor, 777 Bay Street

Toronto, ON M7A 2J3

Dear Minister Elliott:

RE: Follow-up on critical care triage – Ongoing human rights concerns and the need for public consultation

I hope this letter finds you well. Thank you for speaking with me in December 2020 and confirming your commitment to human rights and your interest in ensuring that our stakeholders’ concerns are appropriately heard. As you know, since April 2020, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has voiced the importance of respecting human rights when triaging critical care during the pandemic. The OHRC has sought to promote an equity-sensitive approach that is fair, transparent and founded on human rights principles.

Since last year, the OHRC has called on the Government to publicly release and consult with human rights stakeholders on various iterations of the critical care triage protocol and framework. Throughout this time, the OHRC has undertaken all best efforts to support the COVID-19 Bioethics Table in its work to revise a triage framework that respects human rights.

We are writing to highlight certain issues about the most recent triage-related documents that the Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre has disseminated to health-care administrators and, once again, to offer our support to your Ministry in hopes of ensuring that the concerns and interests of human rights stakeholders will be heard.

As you know, last December, the OHRC worked collaboratively with the COVID-19 Bioethics Table to facilitate a consultation with human rights stakeholders on the September 11 version of the proposed triage framework document. The Bioethics Table prepared a summary of the meeting and circulated it to participants. The summary also included an appendix prepared by the OHRC summarizing its recommendations for the Bioethics Table and your Ministry’s consideration.

Early this year, the OHRC obtained a copy of the Emergency Standard of Care dated January 13, 2021. We also obtained copies of related supplementary materials on the Emergency Standard of Care:

Template letters to be sent to patients informing them they will not receive critical care and/or that critical care is being withdrawn without their consent

An online short-term mortality risk calculator with digitized clinical tools to assess mortality

Critical Care Services Ontario’s January 23, 2021, webinar and slide deck to help disseminate the Emergency Standard of Care within the sector.

While the OHRC appreciates that the Emergency Standard of Care refers to human rights principles and obligations in its introduction, we remain concerned about the following issues that we raised earlier:

The reliance on a 12-month predicted mortality timeline is excessive and risks discriminatory biases

The use of clinical assessment tools not validated for critical care triage also risks discriminatory bias

The need to account for the human rights duty to accommodate throughout the decision-making process including when assessing a patient’s predicted mortality

The need to ensure the legal right to due process and transparency for triaging decisions, including an effective mechanism for the right to appeal a decision that disproportionately impacts the right to life of vulnerable groups

The need to ensure appropriate human rights training and guidance for healthcare service providers so that they can implement the standard equitably and effectively.

Further, while the OHRC appreciates that the Emergency Standard of Care is intended to be an “evergreen” document, we are concerned that this document and supplementary materials (including the online short-term mortality risk calculator) are being shared within the health-care sector with potentially discriminatory content and without sufficient public input or consultation. We are also concerned that the previous March 2020 version of the protocol, which was intended to be rescinded in October 2020, may still be in circulation and relied upon by health-care partners, particularly given something to this effect was noted in the above-cited January 23, 2021, webinar regarding emergency/ambulance services.

Stakeholders – including ARCH Disability Law Centre and the AODA Alliance – have expressed serious concerns that the government may act on calls for an emergency order to suspend certain provisions of the Health Care Consent Act, allowing doctors to withdraw patients from critical care without their consent, or that of their families or substitute decision-makers, and without independent oversight.

The OHRC understands that granting doctors such decision-making power is an extraordinary measure and one the Government will not take lightly. The OHRC also understands that your Ministry wishes to ensure that human rights stakeholders concerns are properly considered and understood. In light of this, we cannot overstate that even if the Government does not issue an emergency order, the lack of transparency regarding the status of the Emergency Standard of Care, plans regarding next steps and questions regarding due process are causing grave concern among vulnerable groups. We believe these concerns must be addressed immediately, particularly given the existence of new, highly transmissible variants of COVID-19.

The OHRC believes that now is the time to act to make sure that frameworks and protocols for triage decisions that are consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code are in place before a potential third wave overwhelms Ontario’s health-care system.

We call on the Government to publicly release and consult human rights stakeholders including the OHRC on the latest versions of the proposed triage framework and the Emergency Standard of Care. There is an urgent need to make sure that vulnerable groups who may be disproportionately affected have an opportunity to share their perspectives while there is still time, and before the proposed triage framework and/or Emergency Standard of Care and related materials are finalized.

Sincerely,

Ena Chadha, LL.B., LL.M.

Chief Commissioner

cc:        Helen Angus, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Health

Matthew Anderson, President and CEO of Ontario Health

Jennifer Gibson, Co-Chair, COVID-19 Bioethics Table

Dr. Andrew Baker, Incident Commander, Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre

Hon. Doug Downey, Attorney General

David Corbett, Deputy Attorney General, Ministry of the Attorney General

OHRC Commissioners

 Ontario Government’s Bioethics Table Summary of Its December 17 2020 Roundtable on Critical Care Triage

Stakeholder Roundtable

 Critical Care Triage During Major Surge in the COVID-19 Pandemic:

Proposed Framework for Ontario

Summary Report

Prepared by:

Jennifer Gibson, PhD (Co-Chair, Bioethics Table)

Dianne Godkin, PhD (Co-Chair, Bioethics Table)

21 December 2020

 

Introduction

On December 17th, the Ontario COVID-19 Bioethics Table (the “Bioethics Table”) and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) co-convened a roundtable with human rights stakeholders (Appendix 1) to review and provide feedback on the Ontario COVID-19 Bioethics Table’s Critical Care Triage During Major Surge in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Proposed Framework for Ontario (the “Proposed Framework”). The Proposed Framework was developed iteratively from March to August 2020 (Appendix 2) and submitted with recommendations for next steps to the Ministry of Health and Ontario Health in September 2020. An earlier version of the framework, which had been developed and released to Ontario hospitals in March 2020, was never implemented and was subsequently rescinded on October 29th.

The roundtable was facilitated by Dr. Kwame McKenzie (CEO, Wellesley Institute). Representatives from the Office of the Minister of Health, the Ministry of Health, Ontario Health and the COVID-19 Ontario Critical Care Command Centre were in attendance as observers. As laid out by Dr. McKenzie, the roundtable aimed to ensure: 1) that all human rights stakeholders were able to share their views on the Proposed Framework; 2) that their concerns were heard by the Ministry, Ontario Health, Critical Care Command Centre representatives and by Bioethics Table members; and 3) that there was clarity on how the Proposed Framework could be improved. Roundtable participants were also provided with links to recent publications on the topic of critical care triage and associated frameworks/protocols in Canada and elsewhere (Appendix 3).

 

This report provides a high-level summary of key issues and concerns raised by roundtable participants and potential actions identified by roundtable participants to address these issues and concerns. It is not exhaustive of all that was discussed at the roundtable. It is intended to reflect the most urgent issues and concerns around which there was broad agreement among roundtable participants in the immediate context of Wave 2 of the COVID-19 pandemic. The OHRC has also provided an outline of its recommendations (Appendix 4). It was acknowledged by all that there are systemic health inequities that will require long-term solutions that are outside of the scope of critical care triage during a pandemic.

 

Key Issues/Concerns and Potential Actions

Roundtable participants stressed the paramount importance of a non-discriminatory, equitable, and culturally safe critical care triage approach. COVID-19 has already had a disproportionate negative impact on many of the communities represented by roundtable participants. Pre-existing historical and social inequities in health outcomes and negative experiences of the healthcare system further exacerbate these impacts. Some may experience intersectionality, the cumulative impact of belonging to more than one disadvantaged group (e.g., a racialized person who also has a disability). For Indigenous communities, it is not just a matter of individual survival, but of cultural survival if an Indigenous knowledge keeper becomes ill and dies. Participants raised concerns that there has been limited engagement of disability, older adults, Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities, arguably those who have been most significantly impacted during the pandemic, in all aspects of pandemic planning and that this has resulted in unsatisfactory and unsafe care. The possibility of triage raises significant fears that these historical and social inequities will be magnified if actions are not taken to implement a critical care triage process that is non-discriminatory. Participants were very concerned that they only had one week to review the Proposed Framework and had difficulty understanding some aspects of the document. Consequently, further engagement and stakeholder consultation is required. A general observation of the Proposed Framework raised by participants is that is not sufficiently prescriptive in describing what must be done.

The following Table summarizes the most urgent issues and concerns and potential actions identified by roundtable participants:

1.     Human Rights and Non-Discrimination as Legal Obligations
 

Issue: Roundtable participants need greater assurance that decisions related to critical care triage will be made in alignment with human rights codes and will be non-discriminatory.

Potential actions:

Ø  Articulate non-discrimination/human rights as the primary overarching legal obligation used to guide the critical care triage process.

2.     Equity as a Positive Obligation
 

Issue: Although equity is identified as an important ethical principle in the Proposed Framework, roundtable participants emphasized the need for a positive obligation to promote equity and for concreteness and clarity on how equity would actually be enacted in practice. It was recognized that under conditions of great stress during a major surge in demand for critical care, unconscious bias is likely to be activated unless steps are taken to support clinicians in promoting equity.

Potential actions:

Ø  Develop an equity-based checklist tool that healthcare providers must review and consider during the assessment stage of the triage process to help them account for the impact of social determinants of health and pre-existing co-morbidities due to social and historical inequities in the care of their patients.

Ø  Make requirements for accommodations for persons with disabilities or to address communication barriers explicit, including allowing a support person to be present as needed.

Ø  Ensure all who are involved in critical care triage process receive anti-racism, anti-bias (e.g., anti-ageism, anti-ableism), and Indigenous cultural safety training and/or have access to tools and resources (e.g., see checklist above) to minimize the risk of unconscious bias.

3.     Legal Framework for Critical Care Triage During a Major Surge
 

Issue: Critical care triage during a major surge would deviate from current legal and regulatory standards, particularly in relation to withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment without consent. Roundtable participants underscored the need for a legal framework to justify the critical care triage approach and to protect both healthcare providers and patients. Any liability protections for healthcare providers should require that they have acted in accordance with this legal framework and with the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Potential actions:

Ø  Develop a legal framework for critical care during a major surge, including key elements of due process.

4.     Critical Care Triage Decision-making Process and Clinical Assessment Tools
 

Issue: Roundtable participants expressed a need for critical care triage decision-making processes and clinical assessment tools to be outlined in greater detail and communicated in a transparent manner to patients and the public. While there was general agreement that for the purposes of triage decisions, clinical assessment should focus on predicted short-term mortality risk, specific concerns were raised about using 12-months as the time frame for predicted short-term mortality and about the validity of the tools for Indigenous persons and other marginalized persons. Roundtable participants also emphasized the need for critical care triage decisions to be transparent.

Potential actions:

Ø  Engage stakeholders in the identification/adaptation of clinical tools to ensure they are culturally appropriate.

Ø  Reduce the duration of short-term predicted mortality risk from 12 months to a lesser time period.

Ø  Include individuals (e.g., community leaders) outside of the medical profession in the implementation of the critical care triage decision-making process (e.g., as supports to patients in clinical decision-making; as members of the Triage Teams described in the Proposed Framework; as members of appeals committees).

Ø  Develop accessible communication tools tailored to the needs of particular groups to foster understanding and trust.

 

5. Right to Appeal
 

Issue: Given the significance of the decision to withhold or withdraw critical care resources from a patient, roundtable participants underscored the need for a timely appeal process as an important safeguard to uphold non-discrimination.

Potential actions:

Ø  Establish an external appeals process by a third party.

6. Development of Interim Protocol for Wave 2
 

Issue: Given the increasing hospitalizations in Wave 2, roundtable participants underscored the urgency of having a non-discriminatory, legally sanctioned, and effective triage protocol in place in the event that there is a major surge in demand for critical care in the coming weeks or months. Absent an interim protocol, roundtable participants acknowledged that clinicians would be left unsupported in the triage decision-making process and Indigenous, Black and other racialized patients and persons with disabilities would be placed at significant risk of harm. The interim protocol would be subject to further revisions and include ongoing engagement and co-development with key stakeholders.

Potential actions:

Ø  Develop an interim protocol in collaboration with human rights stakeholders and critical care providers. The interim protocol could be based on the institutional protocol created by the Ontario COVID-19 Critical Care Command Centre with modifications to reflect where there is broad human rights stakeholder agreement.

Ø  Concurrently, continue stakeholder engagement to address unresolved issues and to advance elements of the Proposed Framework which may require more time to implement.

APPENDIX 1: Roundtable Participants

Roundtable Facilitator:

Kwame McKenzie (CEO, Wellesley Institute)

Participants:

Nicole Blackman (Provincial Director, Indigenous Primary Health Care Council)

Avvy Go (Director, Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic)—also provided written submission

James Janeiro (Director, Community Engagement and Policy, Community Living Toronto)

Trudo Lemmens (Professor & Scholl Chair in Health Law and Policy, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto)

David Lepofsky (Chair, AODA Alliance)

Caroline Lidstone-Jones (CEO, Indigenous Primary Health Care Council)

Roxanne Mykitiuk (Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University)

Tracy Odell (President, Citizens with Disabilities)

Mariam Shanouda (Staff Lawyer, ARCH Disability Law Centre)

Jewelles Smith (Past-Chairperson, Council of Canadians with Disabilities)

Observers:

  1. Office of the Minister of Health

Emily Beduz (Director, Pandemic Response)

Heather Potter (Director, Issues and Legislative Affairs)

  1. Ministry of Health

Tina Sakr (Team Lead, Priority and Acute Programs)

Jennifer Lee Arseneau (Senior Policy Advisor, Priority and Acute Programs)

Louise Verity (Strategic Advisor to the CEO)

  1. Ontario COVID-19 Critical Care Command Centre

Andrew Baker (Incident Commander)

 

  1. Ontario Human Rights Commission

Ena Chadha (Chief Commissioner)

Violetta Igneski (Commissioner)

Raj Dhir (Executive Director and Chief Legal Counsel)

Shaheen Azmi (Director, Policy, Education, Monitoring & Outreach)

Bryony Halpin (Senior Policy Analyst)

Jeff Poirier (Senior Policy Analyst)

Rita Samson (Senior Policy Analyst)

  1. Ontario COVID-19 Bioethics Table (in attendance)

Jennifer Gibson (Co-Chair; University of Toronto)

Dianne Godkin (Co-Chair; Trillium Health Partners)

Sally Bean (Toronto Region Bioethics Lead and Member; Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre)

Cecile Bensimon (Member; Canadian Medical Association)

Carrie Bernard (Member; William Osler Health System, University of Toronto, McMaster University)

Nicole Blackman (*new member as of Dec 2020; Indigenous Primary Health Care Council)

Paula Chidwick (Central Region Bioethics Lead and Member; William Osler Health System)

James Downar (Member; The Ottawa Hospital, Bruyere Continuing Care, Ottawa Health Research Institute)

Lisa Forman (Member; University of Toronto)

Mary Huska (North Region Bioethics Lead and Member; Health Sciences North)

Michael Kekewich (East Region Bioethics Lead and Member; The Ottawa Hospital)

Stephanie Nixon (Member; University of Toronto)

Nancy Ondrusek (Member; Public Health Ontario)

Lisa Schwartz (Member; McMaster University)

Robert Sibbald (Member; London Health Sciences; Western University)

Maxwell Smith (Past Co-Chair and Member; Western University)

Randi Zlotnik-Shaul (Member; Sick Kids Hospital)

vii) Students

Veromi Asiradam, JD Student, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

Ya-En Cheng, JD Student, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

viii) Recorder

Danielle Linnane (Quality Improvement Specialist, Ontario Health)

 

APPENDIX 2: Development of the Proposed Framework

 

The Critical Care Triage During Major Surge in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Proposed Framework for Ontario (the “Proposed Framework”) was developed based on iterative review of the academic literature and published policy statements on critical care triage in a pandemic, consultation with clinical, legal, and other experts, and feedback from health system stakeholders. The Proposed Framework with recommendations for next steps was submitted to the Ministry of Health and Ontario Health in September 2020.

 

Development of the Proposed Framework was undertaken in three phases from March to December 2020:

  • In Phase 1, an initial draft framework was developed in March 2020 in response to an urgent need for the Ontario health system to prepare for the possibility of a major surge in demand for critical care as was being observed in Italy, Spain, and New York State. The initial draft, which was developed without the benefit of consultation with human rights stakeholders, among others, was released to hospitals on March 28 to aid planning. A major surge in demand for critical care was averted in Ontario. This draft framework was not implemented and was formally rescinded on October 29, 2020.
  • In Phase 2, extensive feedback on the initial draft framework was received in April 2020 through written submissions from diverse organizations and groups. Feedback was sent either directly to the Bioethics Table or to the Ministry of Health or Ontario Health and shared with the Bioethics Table. The Bioethics Table reviewed and considered all feedback and amended the document accordingly. Additional feedback was solicited from bioethics, health law, and clinical experts. An updated draft framework was developed in May 2020 based on new published findings in the literature, policy discussions in the public domain (e.g., policy statements), and written stakeholder feedback.
  • In Phase 3, the Bioethics Table began meeting with the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) in May 2020 and undertook an expanded stakeholder consultation process to elicit input from Black and other racialized groups, Indigenous health leaders, older adults, and disability rights experts. A first stakeholder roundtable was co-convened with the OHRC on July 15, 2020. Meetings continued through July and August with disability rights stakeholders and with the Indigenous Bioethics Reference Group of the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council. The Proposed Framework was informed extensively by these stakeholder discussions, an updated review of the literature and policy statements from civil society organizations (e.g., Canadian Association of Retired People), and additional input from health law and clinical experts. In December 2020, the Bioethics Table received approval to convene a second stakeholder roundtable to review and elicit feedback on the Proposed Framework. The roundtable took place on December 17, 2020.

The Proposed Framework document is a green document within the overall COVID-19 pandemic response in Ontario. The process for developing an approach to critical care triage in the context of a major surge in demand must be sensitive and responsive to changing conditions, emerging evidence, and evolving understanding of the ethical, social, and legal implications of critical care triage for major surge in a pandemic. As such, this document should be subject to regular review and updating as appropriate.

Acknowledgments:

The Bioethics Table would like to acknowledge the substantive feedback, input, and advice of the following organizations through written submissions and/or stakeholder consultations (listed alphabetically):

  • AODA Alliance
  • ARCH Disability Law Centre
  • Black Health Committee, Alliance for Health Communities
  • Canadian Frailty Network
  • Canadian Geriatric Society
  • Canadian Medical Protective Association
  • Canadian Thoracic Society
  • Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
  • Citizens with Disabilities Ontario
  • Clinical, Organization, and Research Ethics (CORE) Network and Provincial COVID-19 Bioethics Community of Practice – University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics[1]
  • College of Nurses of Ontario
  • College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
  • Community Living Toronto
  • Council of Canadians with Disabilities
  • COVID-19 Critical Care Command Centre and Provincial Critical Care Table, Ontario Health
  • Indigenous Bioethics Reference Group, Indigenous Primary Health Care Council
  • Muscular Dystrophy Canada
  • Ontario Hospital Association/HIROC
  • Ontario Human Rights Commission
  • Ontario Medical Association

The Bioethics Table has also benefited from the substantive feedback, input, and advice of individual scholars and practitioners with expertise in the following areas:

  • Clinical Medicine – over 20 clinician experts in cancer care, cardiac care, complex continuing care, critical care, emergency medicine, geriatric medicine, neurology, stroke, thoracic medicine
  • Health Equity
  • Health Law and Human Rights Law

**Please note that these acknowledgments do not signify endorsement of the Proposed Framework.**

 

APPENDIX 3: Roundtable Documents

The following is a list of recent publications, including government or policy documents, journal articles, and media reports, on the topic of critical care triage and associated frameworks/protocols in Canada and elsewhere. These were pre-circulated to roundtable participants for their information.

 

Critical Care Triage Frameworks/Protocols from Other Jurisdictions

 

  1. Quebec Critical Care Triage Protocol (Nov 2020 – In French)
  2. Saskatchewan Health Authority Triage Working Group, Critical Care Resource Allocation Framework (Sept 2020)
  3. Joint Commission on Triage Decisions for Severely Ill Patients During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Israel, July 2020)
  4. COVID-19 rapid guideline: critical care in adults (UK-NHS, March 2020/updated Sept 2020)

 

Publicly Available Advocacy/Feedback related to Critical Care Triage

 

  1. ARCH Disability Law Centre
  2. AODA Alliance/ARCH Disability Law Centre
  3. Ontario Human Rights Commission
  4. Société québécoise de la déficience intellectuelle – English translation using Google Translate attached

 

Journal & Media Articles

 

  1. Nouvelles directives pour l’attribution des respirateurs artificiels (Le Devoir) – English translation using Google Translate attached
  2. Following controversy, Quebec revises rules for who gets intensive care treatment if resources are limited (CBC news)
  3. Frailty Triage: Is Rationing Intensive Medical Treatment on the Grounds of Frailty Ethical? (American Journal of Bioethics)
  4. Disability, Disablism, and COVID-19 Pandemic Triage (Journal of Bioethical Inquiry)
  5. What the Chaos in Hospitals Is Doing to Doctors: Politicians’ refusal to admit when hospitals are overwhelmed puts a terrible burden on health-care providers (The Atlantic)
  1. Using the Clinical Frailty Scale in Allocating Scarce Health Care Resources (Canadian Geriatrics Journal)
  2. Ontario has a world-leading protocol that all provinces and territories should adopt to be truly ready for COVID-19’s second wave (Policy Options)
  3. Proceed with caution with Ontario’s critical care triage protocol (Policy Options)

APPENDIX 4: OHRC Recommendations

Summary of OHRC Feedback on Triage Framework

December 18, 2020

 

Interim Framework / Protocol

  • The OHRC encourages the Ministry of Health to share the “protocolized” version of the Triage Framework that was sent to hospitals in Ontario and also make this document available to all stakeholders involved in the consultation.
  • Without having seen this document, the OHRC is not in a position to assess whether the protocolized version could be adapted or whether an entirely new document needs to be developed to reflect stakeholder input and serve as an interim protocol. An interim protocol should be short, user friendly and developed with a view to how it can be used in a crisis – until further consultation can happen.
  • The interim protocol could continue to evolve as a basis for further consultation on more complex and contentious issues. While not yet sanctioned by legislation or regulation, hospitals would have ready access to a protocol that is reasonably acceptable to stakeholders if a major surge happens.
  • An interim protocol could potentially address issues where there is agreement across stakeholder groups. The issues are, but not limited to:
    • Ensure the protocol recognizes that human rights is the primary guiding principle and law in accordance with the primacy clause under section 47 of Ontario’s Human Rights Code (Code)
    • Ensure there is a legislative basis for the protocol that will also provide for governance and accountability mechanisms including how to initiate the use of the protocol during a pandemic surge
    • Exclude the Clinical Frailty Scale (CFS) and any other clinical assessment factors and tools that are not validated for critical care resource allocation. The Bioethics Table recognizes the CFS was designed and validated to help identify treatment plans and accommodation supports for frail patients, and not for critical care triage. Used as a triage tool, the CFS would likely disproportionately impact Code-protected groups and may be inconsistent with human rights obligations including the duty to accommodate
    • Define short-term predicted mortality as the predicted risk of death in the initial weeks, and not twelve months after the onset of critical illness. The Bioethics Table recognizes that relatively little mortality occurs between six and twelve months
    • Ensure a fair and efficient appeal mechanism
    • Explicitly recognize the legal duty to accommodate including essential support persons / communications / interpreter access, etc.
    • Mandate a clear procedure to document decisions that requires evidence-based written reasons. This could include a “positive obligation” checklist to account for issues of equity and the social determinants of health
    • Require socio-demographic data collection to monitor for adverse application of the protocol
    • Allow for human rights equity groups to monitor, and provide feedback on the protocol.

The OHRC also agrees with the Bioethics Table’s recommendations that call on the Ministry of Health and Ontario Health to:

  • Issue clear communications that health care providers must disregard and destroy the March 28 version of the protocol
  • Circulate the proposed framework, including the clinical assessment factors and tools, for public feedback and independent legal review
  • Convene a multidisciplinary panel, including experts in human rights and law to further develop, or refute, the clinical factors and tools identified in the proposed framework
  • Engage health care partners to develop guidance for implementing the protocol including clinical operations, communications, training, patient and clinician supports, data collection and monitoring
  • Provide for governance and accountability mechanisms including responsibility for initiating the protocol, data collection and independent monitoring for adverse consequences
  • Sustain equitable COVID-19 prevention efforts to avoid the need to initiate the protocol, and mitigate disproportionate impacts on vulnerable groups
  • Meaningfully engage vulnerable groups, including Indigenous communities, Black and racialized communities, persons with disabilities, older persons and others for their perspectives and participation throughout the process to finalize and implement the protocol.
  • Provide comprehensive training on the new protocol, including anti-bias education.

[1] The CORE Network and the COVID-19 Bioethics Community of Practice comprise practicing bioethicists who work in a variety of health institutions, including hospitals, long term care homes, rehabilitation facilities, community care, and complex continuing care settings. Members have diverse disciplinary expertise (e.g., philosophy, law, anthropology) and clinical professions (e.g., medicine, nursing, social work, occupational therapy). CORE Network members are based in the Greater Toronto/Hamilton Area. The COVID-19 Bioethics Community of Practice draws practicing bioethicists from across the province of Ontario totalling >50 individuals. The University of Toronto Joint for Bioethics provides secretariat support for both the Core Network and the COVID-19 Bioethics Community of Practice.



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Already In ‘Crisis Mode’, Ontario Hospitals Have No Protocol for Who Gets Priority Treatment, Human Rights Advocates Say


January 8, 2021

As ICU beds continue to fill up, a nightmare is looming.

Doctors in Ontario could soon be forced to undergo the harrowing process their peers in Italy and New York experienced in the spring choosing who lives and dies when intensive care reaches its maximum capacity.

Thats the question many fear as COVID-19 patients continue to pile into intensive care beds in Ontario. In Peel Region, hospitals are at breaking point, cancelling surgeries and transferring some patients to neighbouring sites.

Wednesday saw 361 ICU beds occupied across Ontario, the highest number since the pandemic began. A field hospital in Burlington has opened its doors, signalling the need to begin using emergency backup resources.

Mississaugas intensive care beds are 99 percent full, according to Trillium Health Partners.

In the face of a situation rapidly spiralling in the wrong direction, disability advocacy groups in the province have drawn attention to an urgent problem. After months of advocacy and countless requests, they say Ontario doesnt have a triage protocol in place to decide who will get access to scarce, life-saving treatment if hospitals are completely overwhelmed.

What we have right now is a vacuum, David Lepofsky, the chair of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance, told The Pointer. We have written to the Minister to say the danger of the vacuum is that if triage does take place, individual doctors will apply their individual discretion and that could force or lead a doctor to [discriminate against those with disabilities].

The Ontario Human Rights Commission, which has been working with AODA Alliance and the government, says the situation is deeply concerning.

Ontario is now in crisis mode as it struggles with rapidly growing COVID-19 cases, Ena Chadha, chief commissioner for the Ontario Human Rights Commission, told The Pointer. In such a crisis, a triage protocol is urgently needed now, and even a temporary one is better than providing no human rights guidance to hospitals. Even if more modifications are needed, an interim protocol will help until final consultations and any required changes can be made.

The lack of set protocols within hospitals is the latest in a saga around triage that has dragged out since March.

At the very beginning of the pandemic, fearing an unmanageable surge in COVID-19 patients, the government of Ontario consulted with its (advisory) Bioethics Table and asked them to recommend a triage protocol. The system is designed to give doctors and healthcare workers a codified list or guide to decide who should receive scarce resources, or life-saving equipment like a ventilator, if ICU beds run out, removing individual judgement from the process.
A well designed protocol is key to transparency, the removal of bias and also important for the mental health of doctors working on the frontlines. Theoretically, it means life and death decisions will be objective.

In March, following advice from the Bioethics Table, the Province put a triage protocol in place, issuing a memo to hospitals across Ontario. But a leaked copy of the original protocol stirred fears among the provinces disability community, with activists arguing it fundamentally discriminated against those living with a disability and risked excluding them from vital ICU treatment. In particular, the framework relied on the Clinical Frailty Scale (CFS) to make decisions, a system to assess the health of those over 65.

The reason it [the CFS] was designed was actually quite valiant, it was quite anti-discriminatory in reasons, Mariam Shanouda, a lawyer with ARCH Disability Law Centre, told The Pointer. Doctors found that persons who were older, going to their doctor, would often get type-cast as Youre just aging when thats not appropriate, it should be an individual assessment.

But, in its theoretical application more broadly, issues begin to appear. If used to assess persons living with disabilities, the CFS can wrongly push them down the triage priority list and risk excluding Ontarians with disabilities from life-saving beds during a surge.

Theres very little understanding of persons with disabilities by the medical profession, Shanouda added. There is [a] constant misunderstanding of someone using a mobility device being frail, when thats not true, theres a difference between frailty and disability.

Following a period of concerted advocacy by AODA Alliance and ARCH, supported by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, doctors from the Bioethics Table sat down to revise the document. Across several meetings and submissions, they listened to concerns about discrimination within their framework and, on September 11, they released a new draft.

The earlier draft version (Clinical Triage Protocol for Major Surge in COVID Pandemic, dated March 28, 2020) should not be implemented or relied upon, the new document states under a series of recommendations for immediate next steps. It said the new September draft should be circulated instead.

A month later, Lepofsky says, the Province repealed its initial and discriminatory framework, but did not replace it, leaving a vacuum.

The Bioethics Table actually told them that the very protocol that they circulated last March should be cancelled because it is discriminatory against people with disability, he said. In other words, they agreed with the points we made.

The details of the Tables initial protocol terrified the activist and former government lawyer.

Through our discussions with them, we learned more and more about what they were proposing and we were showing serious human rights violations, discrimination issues, he said.
Serious [issues], not Gee, I wish it were nicer or Could you do it a little better?

Getting information from the government has been a frustrating experience. The revised September protocol was not released publicly until December, after months of advocacy, while the now cancelled triage protocol has never been public. Leposky has written 6 letters to Health Minister Christine Elliott, with precious little to show.

The most recent draft protocol, completed on September 11, has issues of its own, the AODA Alliance says. Leposky questions if triage rules can simply be sent out by the Ministry without being debated by MPPs or subject to wide-ranging consultations since, in a surge situation, they will directly decide who lives and dies. He is also concerned with a suggestion patients could be triaged out of intensive care, even if they are already on life support.

If a major surge is imminent all patients who are currently receiving critical care resources should be reviewed, the protocol says, suggesting some patients should be informed that Level 1 triage may be initiated and what the consequences to the patient would be.

Elsewhere, the documents authors also suggest a frequent reassessment of admitted patients by the clinical team for any indication that the patient is no longer responding to treatment, or where the patients clinical trajectory suggests that their predicted short-term mortality has substantially worsened from when they were admitted.

We have serious questions about forget the ethics the legality from a civil or criminal perspective, Lepofsky said. Somebody is going to have to take a look and explain why that isnt homicide.

Perhaps the biggest concern for disability advocates in Ontario is a suggestion by the government that a fair triage protocol isnt possible in the current time frame. After admitting their initial draft was lacking, the September replacement makes constant reference to the need for further work to be done.

It should be noted that no tool has been designed and validated for ethical triage decision-making of this sort, and tools that are normally used may be problematic when applied for this purpose, the report states. Its authors appear to be admitting defeat and saying the triage question, which they have had almost a year to study, cant be answered during the pandemic.

You get a kind of discriminatory triage protocol or you get no triage protocol at all, Shanouda lamented. Thats not acceptable, we cant settle for that.

During an emergency round table discussion organized by the Ontario Human Rights Commission in December, Lepofsky says a government doctor, Andrew Baker, said a fully formed framework may have to wait. He said that life years saved, a common approach, would likely be used in the interim, a measure that can also be subjective or lead to discrimination. What does that mean? Lepofsky said. Human rights: wait until COVID is over. Well, that is singularly appalling.

The Ministry of Health acknowledged a request for comment on the triage protocol Monday and another specifically on the issues raised by Dr. Baker, but did not provide a response in time for publication.

Without an equitable triage protocol in place, individual doctors may have to make decisions that could affect peoples legislated human rights, Chadha said. There are many important considerations. Should decisions be made on a first-come first-served basis? That assumes everyone has equal access. Should decisions be made based on who presents as the sickest? Based on who is most likely to survive? Based on who has the longest years to live (predictive mortality)?

The Ontario Human Rights Code requires that all people receive equitable treatment in services regardless of whether they have a disability, are elderly, or have lived experiences that make them more vulnerable to experiencing health impacts that affect their medium-and long-term survival, she added.

For disability advocates, the experience of slow moving government has been frustrating. Despite buying itself time in the spring and summer, Ontario appears to have wasted valuable months and now finds itself without an effective or equitable set of rules to decide who will receive hospital beds and ventilators if they run out.

Shanouda says she hopes to avoid it, but legal action is not out of the question.

If you do get to litigation, that means lives may have been lost, she said. Persons with disabilities should not be casualties here.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @isaaccallan
Tel: 647 561-4879

Original at https://ca.news.yahoo.com/already-crisis-mode-ontario-hospitals-170113071.html




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Yesterday’s Roundtable on Critical Care Triage during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Hosted by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Leads the AODA Alliance to Again Write Health Minister Christine Elliott to Raise Important New Issues


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: http://www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

December 18, 2020
SUMMARY

Yesterday, the AODA Alliance joined the ARCH Disability Law Centre and a number of other advocates from Ontario’s disability, racialized and Indigenous communities, all invited by the Ontario Human Rights Commission to a virtual roundtable discussion. It focused on the September 11, 2020 draft critical medical care triage protocol that was finally made public a week earlier. We have campaigned for three months to get that document made public.

Given the number of participants, we could only scratch the surface on this life-and-death issue during this two-hour roundtable. The painful fact that that day, Ontario had another record-breaking number of new COVID-19 infections made this discussion especially urgent and long-overdue.

A number of new important issues were identified at this roundtable by a spectrum of participants. All were in strong agreement on a range of concerns. The AODA Alliance’s concerns were echoed or endorsed by a number of participants.

Some of the key points which the AODA Alliance raised are spelled out in the newest letter to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot from the AODA Alliance, dated December 17, 2020 and set out below. We hope that the Minister will this time respond to our letter. The Ford Government has not answered any of our earlier letters to her on this topic.

Present to receive feedback at the roundtable were representatives from the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Ontario-Government’s external Bioethics Table. As well, there were some representatives from the Ford Government, including from the Health Minister’s office, from Ontario Health, and from the Government’s internal Critical Care Command Centre. We asked to be sent the names and contact information for these provincial officials and are waiting to hear back. We also asked to be sent all the information on the Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol that the Government has sent to hospitals. No one spoke up to agree to send this to us.

This entire triage issue remains in flux. We will keep you posted. With COVID-19 infections rising and hospitals getting filled to capacity, we fear that triage may be taking place right now.

Send your feedback to us at [email protected]

For more background on this issue, check out:
1. The Government’s external advisory Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol.
2. The December 3, 2020 open letter to the Ford Government from 64 community organizations, calling for the Government to make public the secret report on critical care triage from the Government-appointed Bioethics Table.
3. The AODA Alliance’s unanswered September 25, 2020 letter, its November 2, 2020 letter, its November 9, 2020 letter, its December 7, 2020 letter, and its December 15, 2020 letter to Health Minister Christine Elliott.
4. The August 30, 2020 AODA Alliance submission to the Ford Government’s Bioethics Table, and a captioned online video of the AODA Alliance’s August 31, 2020 oral presentation to the Bioethics Table on disability discrimination concerns in critical care triage.
5. The September 1, 2020 submission and July 20, 2020 submission by the ARCH Disability Law Centre to the Bioethics Table.
6. The November 5, 2020 captioned online speech by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the disability rights concerns with Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.
7. 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.

MORE DETAILS

December 17, 2020 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

December 17, 2020

To: The Hon. Christine Elliott, Minister of Health
Via email: [email protected]
Ministry of Health
5th Floor
777 Bay St.
Toronto, ON M7A 2J3

Dear Minister,

Re: Ontario Government’s Protocol for Medical Triage of Life-Saving Critical Care in the Event Hospitals Cannot Handle All COVID-19 Cases

We urgently write to follow up on our five unanswered letters to you dated September 25, November 2, November 9, December 7 and December 15, 2020. These ask about the Ford Government’s plans for deciding which patients would be refused life-saving critical medical care that they need, if the record-breaking surge in COVID-19 cases overloads Ontario hospitals and requires rationing or “triage” of critical care beds and services.

This morning, we took part in a two-hour virtual roundtable, convened by the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Government-appointed COVID-19 Bioethics Table. It was convened on very short notice to gather feedback on the Bioethics Table’s recently-released September 11, 2020 proposed critical care triage protocol.

These are among the many urgent points that arose at or from the discussion at that roundtable:

1. None of us invited to that roundtable from the disability, racialized or Indigenous communities had had anywhere near the time we needed to properly review the detailed 36-page September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol. Such virtual face-to-face consultations are vital but must be preceded by enough time to prepare. Sending in written submissions is no substitute. Don’t now consider that the consultation check box can be ticked.

2. No one has shown us that anything in the proposed triage protocol is authorized by law. We have raised this concern time and again. The most interesting and thorough discussion with the Bioethics Table on how triage should be carried out is utterly irrelevant if the protocol, whatever it says, is not properly mandated by law a law that passes constitutional muster.

For example, it will be shocking and deeply disturbing to many if not most to learn the draft triage protocol would have doctors under certain triage circumstances actually withdraw critical care services from a critical care patient who needs those services and who is in the middle of receiving those insured medical services. How can a mere memo from some bureaucrat in the Ministry of Health or from Ontario Health purport to authorize that, if there is no legislative authority for it? Couldn’t that give rise to possible criminal responsibility, for those taking such action? We don’t believe that a provincial memo overrides the Criminal Code of Canada.

3. It appeared that none of us, from whom input was being sought, could understand from this 36-page document exactly how a doctor is to specifically decide who will be refused critical care under the September 11, 2020 draft triage protocol. We cannot give the kind of detailed input that is needed without that being clarified. We wrote the Bioethics Table co-chairs about this in advance of this meeting. No such clarification was provided.

4. An extremely worrisome revelation was made in the only statement we have heard from anyone within the Government’s internal critical care triage infrastructure. Dr. Andrew Baker identified himself as a member of the Ministry of Health’s Critical Care Command Centre. Right near the end of the roundtable, responding to feedback at the roundtable, Dr. Baker stated that doctors value life inherently, and that at present, doctors “default to life years, when we have finite resources. One principle, life years.”

What we take from this is that at present, such triage decisions would be made based on “life years saved.” He went on to say that a new approach to triage, embodying the concerns raised at the roundtable (with which he seemed to find real merit), would in effect have to wait for a future time. That would have to be after this pandemic is over.

That statement in effect summarily and categorically dismissed all the serious human rights and constitutional concerns we had raised for two hours as not ready to be implemented during this pandemic, even if critical care triage becomes necessary.

We strongly disagree. The Government cannot give up on this now. The thought that we might not have time to put these principles into action now is especially cruel, since our community has been pleading with your Government since early April to directly consult us on this issue.

Dr. Baker’s endorsement of using “life years saved” points to an approach riddled with discrimination because of age, disability, or both. Minister, Dr. Baker’s single statement crystalizes so many of our concerns. It reveals that whatever is written in this or other triage protocols won’t matter at the front lines, and that vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities, among others, now have a great deal to worry about.

This requires you to immediately take over personal leadership on this issue, and to let our vulnerable communities speak directly to you and your senior officials.

5. From what we can determine, the September 11, 2020 draft triage protocol would have a doctor or doctors assess, based on an individual clinical assessment, if a patient, needing critical care, has less than 12 months to live. As I pointed out at the roundtable, Dr. James Downar, of the Bioethics Table, has previously told us that when doctors assess whether a patient has less than 3 months to live in order to decide if that patient should be allowed to go into palliative care, doctors “lie”. By this, we understand him to mean that they try to make a result-oriented assessment to get palliative resources for their patient.

If doctors routinely lie for assessing a patient’s likely mortality within three months, we have every reason to fear that they could do the same when the figure is changed from three months to twelve months, in connection with critical care triage decisions. We realize that there is a difference between admission to palliative care on the one hand, and admission to critical care on the other. However, for current purposes, that difference does not make a difference.

6. The September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol, like the two earlier versions that the Bioethics Table produced this year, give these life-and-death decisions over to doctors. As addressed in our next point, we think this needs reconsideration. It provides no appeal from those doctors to an outside independent body, such as a court or the Consent and Capacity Board. Such an appeal is needed. Moreover, it proposes to immunize doctors and other health care professionals making these life-and-death decisions from any accountability. It states that the protocol should:

“4. Ensure liability protection for all those who would be involved in implementing the Proposed Framework (e.g., physicians, clinical teams, Triage Team members, Appeals Committee members, implementation planners, etc.), including an Emergency Order related to any aspect requiring a deviation from the Health Care Consent Act.”

It is certainly questionable whether that can be done. We believe it is beyond question that it should not be done.

7. As we also emphasized at the roundtable, it is not clear to us that these purely medical triage criteria are the way for Ontario to go. Other non-medical triage criteria outside the preserve of doctors are worth considering.

Minister, please talk to us. Have your Ministry officials talk to us. Don’t wait until it is too late.

Stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont
Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Enclosure: December 11, 2020 email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Jennifer Gibson, Bioethics Table co-chair

cc:
Premier Doug Ford [email protected]
Helen Angus, Deputy Minister of Health [email protected] Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility [email protected]
Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility [email protected]
Mary Bartolomucci, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]
Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services [email protected]
Janet Menard, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services [email protected]
Ena Chadha, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission [email protected] Jennifer Gibson, Co-Chair, Bioethics Table [email protected] Dianne Godkin, Co-Chair, Bioethics Table [email protected]




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Yesterday’s Roundtable on Critical Care Triage during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Hosted by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Leads the AODA Alliance to Again Write Health Minister Christine Elliott to Raise Important New Issues


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Yesterday’s Roundtable on Critical Care Triage during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Hosted by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Leads the AODA Alliance to Again Write Health Minister Christine Elliott to Raise Important New Issues

December 18, 2020

SUMMARY

Yesterday, the AODA Alliance joined the ARCH Disability Law Centre and a number of other advocates from Ontario’s disability, racialized and Indigenous communities, all invited by the Ontario Human Rights Commission to a virtual roundtable discussion. It focused on the September 11, 2020 draft critical medical care triage protocol that was finally made public a week earlier. We have campaigned for three months to get that document made public.

Given the number of participants, we could only scratch the surface on this life-and-death issue during this two-hour roundtable. The painful fact that that day, Ontario had another record-breaking number of new COVID-19 infections made this discussion especially urgent and long-overdue.

A number of new important issues were identified at this roundtable by a spectrum of participants. All were in strong agreement on a range of concerns. The AODA Alliance’s concerns were echoed or endorsed by a number of participants.

Some of the key points which the AODA Alliance raised are spelled out in the newest letter to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot from the AODA Alliance, dated December 17, 2020 and set out below. We hope that the Minister will this time respond to our letter. The Ford Government has not answered any of our earlier letters to her on this topic.

Present to receive feedback at the roundtable were representatives from the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Ontario-Government’s external Bioethics Table. As well, there were some representatives from the Ford Government, including from the Health Minister’s office, from Ontario Health, and from the Government’s internal Critical Care Command Centre. We asked to be sent the names and contact information for these provincial officials and are waiting to hear back. We also asked to be sent all the information on the Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol that the Government has sent to hospitals. No one spoke up to agree to send this to us.

This entire triage issue remains in flux. We will keep you posted. With COVID-19 infections rising and hospitals getting filled to capacity, we fear that triage may be taking place right now.

Send your feedback to us at [email protected].

For more background on this issue, check out:

  1. The Government’s external advisory Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol.
  2. The December 3, 2020 open letter to the Ford Government from 64 community organizations, calling for the Government to make public the secret report on critical care triage from the Government-appointed Bioethics Table.
  3. The AODA Alliance’s unanswered September 25, 2020 letter, its November 2, 2020 letter, its November 9, 2020 letter, its December 7, 2020 letter, and its December 15, 2020 letter to Health Minister Christine Elliott.
  4. The August 30, 2020 AODA Alliance submission to the Ford Government’s Bioethics Table, and a captioned online video of the AODA Alliance’s August 31, 2020 oral presentation to the Bioethics Table on disability discrimination concerns in critical care triage.
  5. The September 1, 2020 submission and July 20, 2020 submission by the ARCH Disability Law Centre to the Bioethics Table.
  6. The November 5, 2020 captioned online speech by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the disability rights concerns with Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.
  7. 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.

MORE DETAILS

December 17, 2020 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

December 17, 2020

To: The Hon. Christine Elliott, Minister of Health

Via email: [email protected]

Ministry of Health

5th Floor

777 Bay St.

Toronto, ON M7A 2J3

Dear Minister,

Re: Ontario Government’s Protocol for Medical Triage of Life-Saving Critical Care in the Event Hospitals Cannot Handle All COVID-19 Cases

We urgently write to follow up on our five unanswered letters to you dated September 25, November 2, November 9, December 7 and December 15, 2020. These ask about the Ford Government’s plans for deciding which patients would be refused life-saving critical medical care that they need, if the record-breaking surge in COVID-19 cases overloads Ontario hospitals and requires rationing or “triage” of critical care beds and services.

This morning, we took part in a two-hour virtual roundtable, convened by the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Government-appointed COVID-19 Bioethics Table. It was convened on very short notice to gather feedback on the Bioethics Table’s recently-released September 11, 2020 proposed critical care triage protocol.

These are among the many urgent points that arose at or from the discussion at that roundtable:

  1. None of us invited to that roundtable from the disability, racialized or Indigenous communities had had anywhere near the time we needed to properly review the detailed 36-page September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol. Such virtual face-to-face consultations are vital but must be preceded by enough time to prepare. Sending in written submissions is no substitute. Don’t now consider that the consultation check box can be ticked.
  1. No one has shown us that anything in the proposed triage protocol is authorized by law. We have raised this concern time and again. The most interesting and thorough discussion with the Bioethics Table on how triage should be carried out is utterly irrelevant if the protocol, whatever it says, is not properly mandated by law – a law that passes constitutional muster.

For example, it will be shocking and deeply disturbing to many if not most to learn the draft triage protocol would have doctors under certain triage circumstances actually withdraw critical care services from a critical care patient who needs those services and who is in the middle of receiving those insured medical services. How can a mere memo from some bureaucrat in the Ministry of Health or from Ontario Health purport to authorize that, if there is no legislative authority for it? Couldn’t that give rise to possible criminal responsibility, for those taking such action? We don’t believe that a provincial memo overrides the Criminal Code of Canada.

  1. It appeared that none of us, from whom input was being sought, could understand from this 36-page document exactly how a doctor is to specifically decide who will be refused critical care under the September 11, 2020 draft triage protocol. We cannot give the kind of detailed input that is needed without that being clarified. We wrote the Bioethics Table co-chairs about this in advance of this meeting. No such clarification was provided.
  1. An extremely worrisome revelation was made in the only statement we have heard from anyone within the Government’s internal critical care triage infrastructure. Dr. Andrew Baker identified himself as a member of the Ministry of Health’s Critical Care Command Centre. Right near the end of the roundtable, responding to feedback at the roundtable, Dr. Baker stated that doctors value life inherently, and that at present, doctors “default to life years, when we have finite resources. One principle, life years.”

What we take from this is that at present, such triage decisions would be made based on “life years saved.” He went on to say that a new approach to triage, embodying the concerns raised at the roundtable (with which he seemed to find real merit), would in effect have to wait for a future time. That would have to be after this pandemic is over.

That statement in effect summarily and categorically dismissed all the serious human rights and constitutional concerns we had raised for two hours as not ready to be implemented during this pandemic, even if critical care triage becomes necessary.

We strongly disagree. The Government cannot give up on this now. The thought that we might not have time to put these principles into action now is especially cruel, since our community has been pleading with your Government since early April to directly consult us on this issue.

Dr. Baker’s endorsement of using “life years saved” points to an approach riddled with discrimination because of age, disability, or both. Minister, Dr. Baker’s single statement crystalizes so many of our concerns. It reveals that whatever is written in this or other triage protocols won’t matter at the front lines, and that vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities, among others, now have a great deal to worry about.

This requires you to immediately take over personal leadership on this issue, and to let our vulnerable communities speak directly to you and your senior officials.

  1. From what we can determine, the September 11, 2020 draft triage protocol would have a doctor or doctors assess, based on an individual clinical assessment, if a patient, needing critical care, has less than 12 months to live. As I pointed out at the roundtable, Dr. James Downar, of the Bioethics Table, has previously told us that when doctors assess whether a patient has less than 3 months to live in order to decide if that patient should be allowed to go into palliative care, doctors “lie”. By this, we understand him to mean that they try to make a result-oriented assessment to get palliative resources for their patient.

If doctors routinely lie for assessing a patient’s likely mortality within three months, we have every reason to fear that they could do the same when the figure is changed from three months to twelve months, in connection with critical care triage decisions. We realize that there is a difference between admission to palliative care on the one hand, and admission to critical care on the other. However, for current purposes, that difference does not make a difference.

  1. The September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol, like the two earlier versions that the Bioethics Table produced this year, give these life-and-death decisions over to doctors. As addressed in our next point, we think this needs reconsideration. It provides no appeal from those doctors to an outside independent body, such as a court or the Consent and Capacity Board. Such an appeal is needed. Moreover, it proposes to immunize doctors and other health care professionals making these life-and-death decisions from any accountability. It states that the protocol should:

“4.       Ensure liability protection for all those who would be involved in implementing the Proposed Framework (e.g., physicians, clinical teams, Triage Team members, Appeals Committee members, implementation planners, etc.), including an Emergency Order related to any aspect requiring a deviation from the Health Care Consent Act.”

It is certainly questionable whether that can be done. We believe it is beyond question that it should not be done.

  1. As we also emphasized at the roundtable, it is not clear to us that these purely medical triage criteria are the way for Ontario to go. Other non-medical triage criteria outside the preserve of doctors are worth considering.

Minister, please talk to us. Have your Ministry officials talk to us. Don’t wait until it is too late.

Stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Enclosure: December 11, 2020 email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Jennifer Gibson, Bioethics Table co-chair

cc:

Premier Doug Ford [email protected]

Helen Angus, Deputy Minister of Health [email protected]

Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility [email protected].ca

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility [email protected]

Mary Bartolomucci, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]

Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services [email protected]

Janet Menard, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services [email protected]

Ena Chadha, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission [email protected]

Jennifer Gibson, Co-Chair, Bioethics Table [email protected]

Dianne Godkin, Co-Chair, Bioethics Table [email protected]



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Ontario Human Rights Commission Issues Statement on Accessible Housing


November 22, 2020

While the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the need for safe housing, Ontarians with disabilities have always lived with the harsh reality that their housing choices are extremely limited, chronically inaccessible and often substandard and unsafe.

One in seven Ontarians have a disability. Yet, Ontarians with disabilities routinely face discriminatory screening practices by landlords and blanket refusals to retrofit accessibility features when accommodation needs arise. People with disabilities are regularly forced to file legal claims simply to get landlords to remove barriers and build safer environments; for example, litigating the installation of ramps, accessible parking, automated doors, brighter lighting, widened entrances, handrails, switching floors, etc. These are just a few of the types of claims that have gone before human rights tribunals and landlord and tenant boards.

For over a decade, the Ontario Human Rights Commission has pointed out that the onus is not just on housing providers to respect the right to accessibility. All levels of government, community planners and housing developers must promote disability rights by committing to universal design for any new housing construction. Accessible housing is not a panacea for eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities, but is a critical step toward facilitating safety, security and independence.

On National Housing Day, the OHRC calls on the Province to amend Ontario’s Building Code Regulation to require all units in new construction or major renovation of multi-unit residences to fully meet universal accessibility standards. The OHRC also calls on municipalities to prioritize universal design construction, consistent with their obligations under the Code. Government and housing providers must work together to make sure that new developments are fully inclusive, because Ontarians deserve no less.

“Universal design” makes housing accessible and adaptable not just for people with disabilities, but for everyone.

A 2019 Angus Reid Institute study found that over half of Canadians surveyed were concerned about their home being inaccessible as their family aged. Universal design allows people to age with dignity ” in their own homes and communities ” without costly retrofits, searching for new housing or being forced into residential care.

The economic and social benefits of aging in our own homes are well established. The pandemic has exposed the unfortunate truth that residential care, while necessary for some people, is an expensive option that carries significant risks.

Universal design isn’t just a human rights ideal

Original at http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/news_centre/ohrc-statement-national-housing-day-november-22-accessible-housing-makes-social-economic-sense




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Ontario Human Rights Commission Corroborates that the Ford Government withdrew the Government’s Widely-Condemned Critical Medical Care Triage Protocol


But as COVID-19 Infections Sky-Rocket, the Government Continues to Conceal Its Plans for Critical Care Triage

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: http://www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

November 13, 2020

SUMMARY
In very encouraging news, the Ontario Human Rights Commission has corroborated that the Ford Government has in fact rescinded and withdrawn the Government’s widely-condemned March 28 2020 critical care triage protocol. That seriously-flawed document directed Ontario hospitals how to choose which patients, who need critical medical care, should be refused that care, if the COVID-19 surge overloads hospitals with more patients than they can serve. That protocol was infected with serious discrimination against some patients with disabilities.

On Thursday, November 5, 2020, the Ford Government said in the Legislature that it had withdrawn its March 28, 2020 critical care triage protocol. It only publicly acknowledged this during Question Period, in response to the opposition NDP pressing the Government on this issue. We then had no corroboration whether the Government had in fact told Ontario hospitals that this protocol was rescinded and should not be followed. On November 9, 2020, the AODA Alliance wrote Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, seeking corroboration of this. on that date, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky also filed a Freedom of Information application, seeking documentation to confirm that the March 28, 2020 critical care triage protocol was withdrawn. The Government has not answered or even acknowledged either that letter or that Freedom of Information application.

Since then, the Ontario Human Rights Commission notified the AODA Alliance that on November 6, 2020, it wrote Health Minister Christine Elliott a new letter, set out below. In it, the Commission confirms that the Government wrote hospitals on October 29, 2020, notifying them of the withdrawal of the March 28, 2020 critical care triage protocol. The Human Rights Commission wrote:

“We were very pleased to learn that on October 29, Ontario Health sent a communication to Critical Care Leads, Hospital CEOs and Ontario Health Regional Leads stating that the March 28 critical care triage protocol and later draft versions are rescinded and should not be used. The OHRC and human rights stakeholders, including ARCH Disability Law, the AODA Alliance and the Canadian Association for Retired Persons had raised serious concerns that these earlier versions had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups and violated human rights.”

We are pleased and relieved to learn this information. This is yet more proof that concerted grassroots efforts by the disability community can yield important results. We acknowledge with deep gratitude all those who teamed up on this life-and-death issue. The ARCH Disability Law Centre played an important role, partnering with the AODA Alliance and several other disability organizations and dis ability rights experts in a joint effort over the summer and fall that is a model of effective collaboration.

This is only a partial victory, though a very important one. As the November 9, 2020 AODA Alliance Update makes clear, the Ford Government has now created a deeply-troubling vacuum. There are no provincial directions on how critical care triage is to be conducted if the COVID-19 surge continues, and overloads Ontario’s hospitals.

That the Ford Government is inexcusably persisting in excessive secrecy in this area is revealed by information in the Human Rights Commission’s letter. As noted above, that letter reveals that on October 29, 2020, the Ford Government wrote key players in the health care system to rescind the March 28, 2020 critical care triage protocol. Yet, the Government did not make that fact public then, or for another week. as also noted above, the Government only made this public on November 5, 2020 because the NDP pressed it on this issue in Question Period. We and others have been asking about this for months. Why did the Government not lift the veil of secrecy without need to resort to an opposition question about this in the Legislature during Question Period? This is hardly consistent with premier Ford’s written commitment to Ontarians with disabilities in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance during the 2018 Ontario election, that:

“Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates, which is why they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party to assist Ontarians in need.”

We commend the Ontario Human Rights Commission for urging the Government to now make public the recommendations for filling this vacuum that the Government received two months ago from the Government-appointed Bioethics Table. We share the Commission’s concern that the Government should openly address this issue now, and not wait until the COVID-19 situation gets significantly worse. With the recent sky-rocketing increases to the daily COVID-19 infections in Ontario, and yesterday’s prediction that these increases could quadruple in the next month or so, the Ford Government cannot simply hope and wish this issue away.

Put simply, conditions are significantly deteriorating right now, according to the Government’s modelling, made public yesterday. We need to have our say now, and we need to know now what the Government is thinking of doing in this life-and-death area.

We always welcome your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

For more background on this issue, check out:

1. The AODA Alliance’s November 9, 2020 news release on this issue, including its unanswered November 9, 2020 letter to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott and the exchange in the Legislature on November 5, 2020 where the Ford Government first publicly admitted that it had rescinded the flawed March 28, 2020 clinical care triage protocol.

2. The AODA Alliance’s unanswered September 25, 2020 letter and its November 2, 2020 letter to Health Minister Christine Elliott

3. The August 30, 2020 AODA Alliance final written submission to the Ford Government’s Bioethics Table

4. The April 8, 2020 open letter to the Ford Government on the medical triage protocol spearheaded by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, of which the AODA Alliance is one of many co-signatories

5. The April 14, 2020 AODA Alliance Discussion Paper on Ensuring that Medical Triage or Rationing of Health Care Services During the COVID-19 Crisis Does Not Discriminate Against Patients with Disabilities

6. The July 16, 2020 AODA Alliance Update that lists additional concerns with the revised draft triage protocol. That Update also sets out the Ford Government Bioethics Table’s revised draft triage protocol itself.

7. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, detailing our 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.

MORE DETAILS

November 6, 2020 Letter from the Ontario Human Rights Commission to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott

Originally posted at: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/news_centre/letter-minister-health-follow-bioethics-table-recommendations-and-proposed-framework-covid-19-triage Letter to Minister of Health to follow up on Bioethics Table recommendations and proposed framework for a COVID-19 triage protocol

November 6, 2020

The Honourable Christine Elliott
Minister of Health
College Park 5th Floor, 777 Bay Street
Toronto, ON M7A 2J3

Dear Minister Elliott:

RE: Bioethics Table recommendations and proposed framework for a COVID-19 triage protocol

I am writing to follow up on myletterto you dated October 16, 2020, about the COVID-19 Bioethics Table’s recommendations and proposed framework for a triage protocol to allocate limited critical care services in a potential major surge in COVID-19 cases.

We were very pleased to learn that on October 29, Ontario Health sent a communication to Critical Care Leads, Hospital CEOs and Ontario Health Regional Leads stating that the March 28 critical care triage protocol and later draft versions are rescinded and should not be used. The OHRC and human rights stakeholders, includingARCH Disability Law, theAODA Allianceand theCanadian Association for Retired Personshad raised serious concerns that these earlier versions had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups and violated human rights.

However, we are very concerned that the October 29 communication indicates a revised framework might be distributed to health care professionals should pandemic conditions deteriorate significantly. That is too late. Human rights stakeholders have not yet seen the Bioethics Table’s latest proposed framework and recommendations submitted to your Ministry in September. In my letter on October 16, I supported the Bioethics Table’s recommendation to circulate the proposed framework and recommended next steps for public feedback, and again call on your Ministry to authorize their release.

It is vital that the government share the current draft of the protocol and meaningfully engage with the vulnerable groups that data now shows are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including Indigenous communities, Black and other racialized communities, persons with disabilities, older persons and others. Their perspectives and participation throughout the process to develop and implement any critical care triage protocol is a matter of human rights.

The OHRC will continue to be available to support this important work and again I extend my invitation to meet with you and discuss next steps at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,
Ena Chadha, LL.B., LL.M.
Chief Commissioner

cc: Helen Angus, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Health
Matthew Anderson, President and CEO of Ontario Health Jennifer Gibson, Co-Chair, COVID-19 Bioethics Table
Hon. Doug Downey, Attorney General
David Corbett, Deputy Attorney General, Ministry of the Attorney General OHRC Commissioners




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