December 30, 2020

Report Shows Oregon Hospitals Denied Health Care to People with Disabilities

photo credit: Matthew Perkins / Flickr
Disability rights activists found that hospitals in Oregon have been denied healthcare during the pandemic due to discriminatory policies.

NPR reported on the story of a woman with an intellectual disability who was denied access to a ventilator due to her "low quality of life." She was further asked to sign do-not-resuscitate (DNR) and do-not-intubate orders, and workers from the care home she lived at were asked to write DNRs for all residents living in the care home in advance.

Understandably upset, the care home staffers sought legal help from Disability Rights Oregon (DRO). When DRO threatened to sue the hospital, the patient was moved and put on a ventilator, which allowed her to successfully recover.

“The threat of litigation and the threat of exposing the depth and the whiff of discrimination in our state, I think, was enough to get people to do the right thing,” DRO legal director Emily Cooper told NPR. “But what that meant is you needed to have a lawyer call or you needed to have someone that had the gravitas to push for that.”

State Sen. Sara Gelser, who was contacted during the incident, voiced frustration that the state hasn't taken action to address the issue.

“Nothing happened to that hospital. Nothing happened to that physician,” she told NPR. “The health authority confirmed that, in fact, that was a coerced do-not-intubate order, that they confirmed it happened … but there was no sanction. So there was no remedy. This is immoral. We do not respond to disability discrimination in the way that we should.”

The NPR story uncovered several other instances of people with disabilities being denied healthcare for similar reasons during the pandemic. This should be greatly concerning for pro-life activists, as the denial of healthcare is incredibly similar to euthanasia consent from a patient.

The lives of people with disabilities are greatly devalued when medical institutions discriminate against them based on a supposed "low quality of life." All life is valuable.

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