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The unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic provided the American public with a master class on health care inequality and how vulnerability to ill health is created. Black people and disabled people, along with folks in other marginalized communities, have suffered disproportionately from the coronavirus’s ravages of sickness and death, as well as its economic burden.
This paper argues that we ought to rethink the harm-reduction prioritization strategy that has shaped early responses to acute resource scarcity (particularly of intensive care unit beds) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some authors have claimed that “[t]here are no egalitarians in a pandemic,” it is noted here that many observers and commentators have been deeply concerned about how prioritization policies that proceed on the basis of survival probability may unjustly distribute the burden of mortality and morbidity, even while reducing overall deaths. The paper further argues that there is a general case in favor of an egalitarian approach to medical rationing that has been missed in the ethical commentary so far; egalitarian approaches to resource rationing minimize wrongful harm. This claim is defended against some objections and the paper concludes by explaining why we should consider the possibility that avoiding wrongful harm is more important than avoiding harm simpliciter.
The COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease of 2019) pandemic has led to intense conversations about ventilator allocation and reallocation during a crisis standard of care. Multiple voices in the media and multiple state guidelines mention reallocation as a possibility. Drawing upon a range of neuroscientific, phenomenological, ethical, and sociopolitical considerations, the authors argue that taking away someone’s personal ventilator is a direct assault on their bodily and social integrity. They conclude that personal ventilators should not be part of reallocation pools and that triage protocols should be immediately clarified to explicitly state that personal ventilators will be protected in all cases.
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