A coalition of nine charities for older people has warned that ‘[d]enying the elderly access to intensive care units’ in the current Coronavirus pandemic is ‘“discriminatory, ageist and morally wrong”’; following Telegraph reports of ‘a major London NHS trust’ saying that ‘“very poorly patients with coronavirus may need to be on a ventilator for extended period”’ – that ‘“for some patients this would not be in their best interest”’ – the signatories to the open letter – including Caroline Abrahams of Age UK, Deborah Alsina of Independent Age, Donald Macaskill of Scottish Care, as well as the commissionersfor older people in Waltes and Northern Ireland – state: ‘“Any suggestion that treatment decisions can be blanket ones, based on age alone or with a person’s age given undue weight as against other factors, such as their usual state of health and capacity to benefit from treatment, would be completely unacceptable.
For many years we have known that chronological age is a very poor proxy for an individual’s health status and resilience – something we all see among the older people in our lives.
To ignore this and to revert to an approach based solely or mainly on age would be, by definition, ageist, discriminatory and morally wrong”’; they add that it is ‘“vital”’ for governments to ‘“continue to uphold fundamental human rights principles”’, and there is ‘“no reason to abandon this long-established good practice now; in fact the current health emergency makes it more critical than ever that we keep it”’ (‘Bias against older patients is morally wrong, say charities’, Telegraph, March 31, 2020).
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust ‘denied that people were denied care due to capacity problems after a senior consultant said ventilators and intensive care for coronavirus patients were being limited to those “reasonably certain” to survive’ and recently, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence ‘issued guidance to NHS intensive care doctors on how to decide which patients should get critical care’ – an ‘“algorithm” to help doctors decide who should be admitted to critical care and who should not’; while not categorising potential patients ‘by age’, it ‘asks doctors to score patients on a nine-point “clinical frailty scale”’, ranking patients ‘from one (very fit) to nine (terminally ill).
Those scoring less than five (mildly frail) who want critical care are considered well enough to benefit, subject to underlying conditions and the severity of their illness. Those scoring over five are put through a process where doctors must decide if critical care is “appropriate”.’ This may sound reseaonable for those reasonably fit and well, but deeply worrying for the rest of us.
The signatories to the open letter, while rejecting rigid age limits for care, say that ‘assesssments should be made on a case-by-case basis through honest discussion with the patient, their family and relevant professionals.’ However, this leaves a great gaping hole for those with disabilities, and even more so for the mentally disabled, who already fare far worse when it comes to the provision of health care; coincidentally, the Government’s emergency Coronavirus legislation removes the statutory duty on local authorities to provide care for the mentally disabled.
For all their protests and complaints, campaigners for ‘equality’ and ‘diversity’ are not really interested in old people, disabled people and the very young – indeed, the ‘equality and diversity’ brigade are at the forefront of the campaign demanding ‘the right to kill’ the very weakest amongst us. Consequently they will be cheering the news that it is now legal to prescribe abortion pills to women after a telemed ‘consultation’ in which no examination is made to determine the progression of the pregnancy and no account taken, apparently, of whether the pills are being requested because of domestic abuse.
And of course no one cares that their unborn babies may be legally killed purely based on their place of residence – the womb – and their age. This is a blatant example of age discrimination, for as soon as they are born – if they succeed in being born – anyone killing them would be guilty of murder. And the fact that disabled unborn babies may be aborted right up to birth is just another example of discrimination against individuals unfortunate enough to be both disabled and very young.
The signatories to the open letter are quite right to cite ‘fundamental human rights principles’ in their defence of the aged; there is no human right to kill – only the human right to not be killed – and it applies to the less able and the very young as much as to the very old. Unless we wish to totally abandon the moral law which marks us out as human, this life-and-death emergency should not mean that we abandon the weak – those under greatest threat from Coronavirus – by prioritising the strong, effectively killing off our past and aborting our future.