Dr. Richard Land Answers: Is It Permissible to Ration Health Care in the Midst of a Medical Crisis?

Question: Is it ever permissible to ration health care in a medical crisis? If so, under what moral circumstances should it be allowed?

Unfortunately, it appears, that despite the best efforts of our elected leaders and the heroic efforts of the medical community, the coronavirus pandemic may very well create a tidal wave of seriously ill patients that will simply overwhelm the capacity of some local hospital facilities to adequately meet the needs of all the critically ill patients who seek treatment.

If and when that happens, what are Christian doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators to do? What does Christian morality allow them to do? Historically, in modern Western civilization when there is such a crisis and there is insufficient life saving care available to treat all patients who are imperiled, a triage system is implemented.

A triage system assigns highest priority to those critically ill patients who most immediately require medical care if they are to have any hope of survival and recovery. The second group in triage are those patients who do not have life threatening illnesses or injuries and thus can wait for medical treatment to become available. This second group is triaged and seen as care becomes available.

The third triage group comprises those patients who are deemed to have sustained mortal injuries or their illnesses have progressed to the state where they have an almost certain probability of dying even if they were given the treatments that are given to group one. The patients in this group are the ones labeled “do not resuscitate” because of their almost certain terminal status and are merely made as comfortable as possible until they expire.

Now, as Americans, of whatever faith, we all pray that it does not come to that in any of our hospitals during the “Great Pandemic of 2020.” But if and when this sad and lamentable state of affairs does eventuate in some of our hospitals, American culture is not at all prepared to react in as Christian way as we would have earlier in our history.

The most crucial question that must be asked when confronting a triage model is “what are the criteria being used to make the decision to relegate some patients to the ‘do not treat’ category as opposed to receiving the urgent care they desperately need immediately?” Any evaluative criteria other than the individual medical condition of each patient must be rejected as prejudice and a denial of the innate dignity of each and every human being. Of course, no racial, ethnic, or gender discrimination must ever be used to disqualify someone from treatment.

Unfortunately, because of the significant inroads of the nefarious and treacherously named “quality of life” ethic in our culture, which argues that some lives aren’t as worth living as others, it would apply categories such as advanced age or mental or physical challenges in patients in any age group. Such thinking is starkly utilitarian, morally repugnant and the antithesis of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which assigns equal and reverential value to each and every human life as made in God’s image (Gen.1:26-27).

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Richard Land