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US hospitals slammed for giving preferential treatment based on race

A US hospital chain has ceased using race as a factor to determine who should receive Covid-19 treatment, according to a statement released Friday.

SSM Health, which operates 23 hospitals across the US, was the subject of controversy after it was found that they were using race to determine who should receive monoclonal antibody treatments for Covid-19.

According to the group’s criteria, patients were issued “points” based on their comorbidities and other factors that would put them more at risk. However, non-white patients received a 7-point lead over white patients.

On Friday, attorneys from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty issued a letter threatening legal action against the hospitals, and claiming that such racial categorisation was illegal.

“A 50-year-old white female (15 points) suffering from obesity (1 point), asthma (1 point), and hypertension (1 point) would not be eligible for mAbs because she does not receive the 20-point minimum score under the calculator,” the letter stated.

“On the other hand, an otherwise healthy 50-year-old African-American female (22 points), without any of these health risks, would be eligible.

“The approach taken by your calculator is not only profoundly unethical and immoral, it is illegal,” the attorneys for WILL argued.

However, on the same Friday when the letter was issued, SSM Health claimed that this set of criteria was no longer in use.

“While early versions of risk calculators across the nation appropriately included race and gender criteria based on initial outcomes, SSM Health has continued to evaluate and update our protocols weekly to reflect the most up-to-date clinical evidence available,” the company said in a statement, as reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“As a result, race and gender criteria are no longer utilized. The internal memo cited by WILL inadvertently referenced an expired calculator.”

Justifying the earlier policy, SSM had previously stated that it was “ethically” sound to prioritise non-white patients, because “Covid-19 has had a disproportionate impact on low income communities and certain racial/ethnic minorities in the United States.”

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