mask

The Disparate Impact of COVID-19 on Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

By James W. Lytle

Katrina Jirik’s compelling post on the dangers posed to people with disabilities if care is rationed during the COVID-19 pandemic powerfully characterizes discriminatory allocation criteria as a form of “updated eugenic thought” that cannot be reconciled with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other anti-discrimination statutes.

I worry, however, that persons with disabilities and other vulnerable populations face an even graver threat:  policymakers may unintentionally adopt policies that neglect to consider the unique needs of persons with disabilities and inadvertently place them at much greater risk.

Read More

empty hospital bed

Disability and Rationing of Care amid COVID-19

By Katrina N. Jirik, PhD

As health care resources grow increasingly scarce amid the COVID-19 pandemic, states, hospitals, and individuals are forced to make tough decisions about the rationing of care. These decisions are often framed in terms of medical and/or legal criteria. However, many people, especially the physicians who make the difficult decisions, realize they have a huge moral component related to perceptions of the value of an individual’s life.

Various states have triage guidelines in place, which differ somewhat, but primarily reflect a utilitarian goal of saving the most people with the least expenditure of finite resources. This is where the societal issue of the value of the life of a person with a disability comes into play.

Read More

The Week in Health Law podcast logo twihl.com

New TWIHL 182: Abortion Exceptionalism During COVID-19

By Nicolas Terry

I welcome three excellent guests this week. Our discussion centers around new abortion restrictions issued as part of state responses to COVID-19. For example, in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning nonessential medical services. Subsequently, his attorney general interpreted that order as applying to all abortions. Planned Parenthood successfully applied for a temporary restraining order in the district court, only for the Fifth Circuit to lift the stay.

Read More

alcatraz, san francisco

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Efforts to Release People in Custody

By Phebe Hong

The first death of a federal inmate from COVID-19 occurred on March 28, at a prison in Oakdale, Louisiana. The inmate had been incarcerated for 13 years for a nonviolent drug charge. At least four other infected inmates have died at the same institution.

The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on prisons and jails, where proper social distancing is nearly impossible to maintain.

Read More

woman with iv in her hand in hospital. Labor and delivery preparation. Intravenious therapy infusion. shallow depth of field. selective focus

The Ethical Argument Against Allowing Birth Partners in All New York Hospitals

By Louise P. King and Neel Shah

Among pregnant people and those who love them, the past few weeks have been especially confusing and anxiety-provoking.

As the new epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York City hospitals temporarily restricted pregnant people from having a birth partner present during labor, a move that stoked international outcry and a vocal community response. Following a Change.org petition that rapidly amassed more than 600,000 protesting signatures, Governor Cuomo responded with an executive order, stating via a spokesperson, “[i]n no hospital in New York will a woman be forced to be alone when she gives birth. Not now, not ever.”

Both of us are obstetrician/gynecologists who have dedicated our careers to supporting the reproductive health and rights of those we are entrusted to care for. We are trained in health law policy and bioethics. And while we support the strong show of support for laboring women and their rights, we believe the Governor’s decision to mandate all New York hospitals allow birth partners — irrespective of the local case rate of COVID-19 or hospital capacity to test for infection or protect health care workers — is uninformed and unethical.

Read More

hospital equipment, including heart rate monitor and oxygen monitor functioning at bedside.

Why COVID-19 is a Chronic Health Concern for the US

By Daniel Aaron

The U.S. government has ratified a record-breaking $2 trillion stimulus package just as it has soared past 100,000 coronavirus cases and 1,500 deaths (as of March 27). The U.S. now has the most cases of any country—this despite undercounting due to continuing problems in testing Americans on account of various scientific and policy failures.

Coronavirus has scared Americans. Public health officials and physicians are urging people to stay at home because this disease kills. Many have invoked the language of war, implying a temporary battle against a foreign foe. This framing, though it may galvanize quick support, disregards our own systematic policy failures to prevent, test, and trace coronavirus, and the more general need to solve important policy problems.

Coronavirus is an acute problem at the individual level, but nationally it represents a chronic concern. No doubt, developing innovative ways to increase the number of ventilators, recruit health care workers, and improve hospital capacity will save lives in the short-term — despite mixed messages from the federal government. But a long-term perspective is needed to address the serious problems underlying our country’s systemic failures across public health.

Read More

Young male doctor in telehealth concept

Telehealth amid COVID-19: What Health Care Providers Should Know

By Adriana Krasniansky

COVID-19 stands to be a watershed moment for telehealth adoption within the U.S. healthcare system.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) (part of the Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS) announced expanded Medicare telehealth coverage for over 80 health services, to be delivered over video or audio channels. Additionally, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced it would waive potential Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) penalties for good faith use of telehealth during the emergency. Both measures are designed to enable patients to receive a wider range of health care services remotely, reducing clinical congestion and limiting transmission of the virus. 

In the midst of this emergency situation, health care providers can take measures to consider the ethical and legal aspects of tele-practice as they get started. This article is a short primer to help medical professionals understand telehealth in this moment, navigate regulations and technology practice standards, and choose technologies to support quality patient care. Read More

The Week in Health Law podcast logo twihl.com

New TWIHL with Wendy Mariner and Michael Ulrich

My guests are Wendy Mariner and Michael Ulrich. At Boston University School of Public Health, Mariner is the Edward R. Utley Professor of Health Law, Professor in the Center for Health Law, Ethics & Human Rights, Professor in the Department of Health Law, Policy & Management, and Director of the JD-MPH dual degree program. She is also a Professor of Law at Boston University School of Law and Professor of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

Ulrich is a Professor of Health Law, Ethics, & Human Rights at the Boston University School of Public Health. His scholarship focuses on the intersection of public health, constitutional law, bioethics, and social justice, with an emphasis on the role of law in the health outcomes of vulnerable and underserved populations. Previously he was a Senior Fellow in Health Law, & Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School and a bioethicist in the Division of AIDS at the National Institutes of Health.

Our discussion concentrates on two aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic: (1) where the healthcare system is as far as capacity and resources, the impact of new federal legislation, and what else is needed and (2) what is the legal valence (if any) of terms such as “shelter in place” or “quarantine” and how will we calibrate more serious infringements on liberty such as lockdowns.

The Week in Health Law Podcast from Nicolas Terry is a commuting-length discussion about some of the more thorny issues in health law and policy. Subscribe at Apple Podcasts or Google Play, listen at Stitcher Radio, SpotifyTunein or Podbean.

Show notes and more are at TWIHL.com. If you have comments, an idea for a show or a topic to discuss you can find me on Twitter @nicolasterry or @WeekInHealthLaw.

cruise ship

Old and New Ways of Coping with COVID-19: Ethics Matters (Part I)

By Leslie Francis and Margaret Pabst Battin

This post is part I of a two-part series on pandemic control strategies in response to COVID-19.

Your life and the lives of many others may depend now on isolation, quarantine, cordon sanitaire, shelter in place, or physical distancing.

These terms have entered the public consciousness rapidly. Though general awareness has increased, the important practical and ethical differences between these practices require further explanation.

Read More