COVID-19 is most deadly when it attacks the lungs, often requiring intervention with ventilators, machines that help patients breathe. Because ventilators are limited in the United States, hospitals may eventually run out, leaving physicians with the daunting task of choosing which patients will have access to ventilators and which patients will not.
We are a coalition of healthcare workers concerned for the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens, and we ask you to support our mission to demand that the state of Illinois create official regulations for the ethical allocation of ventilators in times of scarcity. Please sign this petition if you believe that all patients—regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, disabilities,or immigration status—should have fair access to ventilators!
It is crucial that the state of Illinois act now to implement ethical guidelines for the fair allocation of ventilators so that vulnerable patient populations, including those with disabilities, will not be discriminated against. Illinois has requested emergency stocks of ventilators, PPE and other medical equipment from the federal government and as of March 31st, has only received 10% of what was requested.
U.S. law mandates that states have plans for emergency hazard situations, but many states, including Illinois, fail to indicate how doctors should decide which patients get access to ventilators in the event of a shortage. Some states, including New York, have put good policies into place that regulate how doctors will make these decisions. While the outbreak in Illinois is not as bad as New York, it may be soon. Illinois must follow suit and create their own policies before it's too late
Without these policies, decisions to exclude certain patients can be discriminatory and unethical. In fact, disability groups in the state of Washington have already had to file suit against their state about this issue. Some hospitals in Illinois are offering resources, and there is plenty of literature coming out on the topic. But we can't have a patchwork system, especially because Illinois is already creating pop up hospitals that will need guidance.
The lack of regulations in Illinois not only sends a message to vulnerable communities that their safety is not being insured; it also leaves the burden of these difficult decisions to doctors. Healthcare providers are already at increased risk given the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). We can't expect them to also have the task of making life and death decisions with no ethical guidelines. Studies show that doctors are often faced with impossible choices, suffering PTSD and other mental health problems as a result.
Illinois must provide clear and comprehensive regulations for the allocation of ventilators so that doctors can be relieved of this burden, allowing them to make efficient, life-saving decisions during this crisis. Illinois now has thousands of cases of COVID-19, and the virus is spreading quickly. It is crucial that policies outlining how to ethically allocate ventilators be put into place in our state. As healthcare workers, we will not tolerate indecision that could put vulnerable populations at risk. Help us send a message that all our patients are valuable and deserve fair treatment.
Illinois should convene a panel of physicians, ethicists, public health officials and other authorities to come up with the most ethical way for doctors to make impossible decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sign the petition if you agree!