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ARCH Disability Law Centre Statement on Need for Transparency and Ongoing Concern with Discriminatory Measures to Address ICU Capacity

April 8, 2021

ARCH Disability Law Centre again urges the Ontario Government to rescind the Emergency Standard of Care (Emergency Standard) distributed to all Ontario Hospitals on or about January 13, 2021. ARCH further calls upon the Ontario Government to clearly state that it will not suspend provisions of the Health Care Consent Act which would enable doctors to withdraw life-saving treatment without the consent of the patient or the patient’s family.

It has been exactly 12 months since ARCH, along with other disability organizations, first called upon the Ontario Government to ensure that any Triage Protocol to guide doctors in making decisions when demand for critical care resources exceeds capacity, be equitable and non-discriminatory. However, as Ontario finds itself in the third wave of COVID-19, there continues to be a dearth of information regarding the direction, if any, the government has given hospitals to ensure that any decisions regarding access to critical care will not be made based on discriminatory and ableist assumptions and beliefs.

The Emergency Standard distributed to Ontario hospitals in January 2021 includes several problematic clinical assessment tools that discriminate against persons with disabilities. In particular, patients who are determined to have a less than 12 month survivability (meaning they are not likely to live more than 12 months from the date on which they are assessed) will be deprioritized from receiving critical care. It is important to note here that this is a highly subjective tool. The Emergency Standard also deprioritizes persons with progressive disabilities from accessing critical care.

It is of utmost importance that the Ontario Government ensures that as demands for hospital resources grow during this third wave of the pandemic, communities who have borne the brunt of COVID-19, including persons with disabilities, are not deprioritized from receiving equitable access to critical care, and that, at this most critical time, the integrity of Ontario’s legal and health care system is not jeopardized by the suspension of the Health Care Consent Act.

April 8, 2021