COVID-19 pandemic, the scarcity of medical resources, community-centred medicine and discrimination against persons with disabilities

J Med Ethics. 2021 Apr 7;medethics-2020-107198. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2020-107198. Online ahead of print.


This research aims to examine access to medical treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic for people living with disabilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the practical and ethical problems of allocating limited medical resources such as intensive care unit beds and ventilators became critical. Although different countries have proposed different guidelines to manage this emergency, these proposed criteria do not sufficiently consider people living with disabilities. People living with disabilities are therefore at a higher risk of exclusion from medical treatments as physicians tend to assume they have poor quality of life, whereas access to medical treatment should be based on several parameters, including clinical data and prognosis. However, the COVID-19 pandemic shifts the medical paradigm from person-centred medicine to community-centred medicine, challenging the main ethical theories. We reviewed the main guidelines and recommendations for resources allocation and examined their position toward persons with disabilities. Based on our findings, we propose criteria for not discriminating against people with disabilities in allocating resources. The shift from person-centred to community-centred medicine offers opportunities but also risks sacrificing the most vulnerable people. The principle of reasonable accommodation must always be considered to guarantee the rights of persons with disabilities.

Keywords: COVID-19; allocation of health care resources; clinical ethics; disability.