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Stramondo, Joseph A.. Tragic Choices: Disability, Triage, and Equity Amidst a Global Pandemic
2021, The Journal of Philosophy of Disability. 1: 201–210.
Added by: Chris Blake-Turner
In this paper, I make three arguments regarding Crisis Standards of Care developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. First, I argue against the consideration of third person quality of life judgments that deprioritize disabled or chronically ill people on a basis other than their survival, even if protocols use the language of health to justify maintaining the supposedly higher well-being of non-disabled people. Second, while it may be unavoidable that some disabled people are deprioritized by triage protocols that must consider the likelihood that someone will survive intensive treatment, Crisis Standards of Care should not consider the amount or duration of treatment someone may need to survive. Finally, I argue that, rather than parsing who should be denied treatment to maximize lives saved, professional bioethicists should have put our energy into reducing the need for such choices at all by resisting the systemic injustices that drive the need for triage.

Comment (from this Blueprint): Stramondo critiques triage protocols that were put into place, or at least proposed, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stramondo argues that protocols that prioritize quality of life involve ableist commitments. While chance-of-survival protocols might do better here, he argues that they are also vulnerable to creeping ableism. Stramondo’s paper is valuable not only for its perspective on triage protocols, but also for highlighting some crucial theoretical contributions by philosophers of disability and by bioethicists. Stramondo also argues not to cede too much ground to fatalism in thinking about triage protocols; bioethicists should also, and perhaps primarily, resist the framing of triage as inevitable, rather than a product of various privileged interests.

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