German Court Rules: Disabled Must Get Fair Triage Treatment

BERLIN (Reuters) -
Head nurse Gunnar Goelzenleuchter gets medication for a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the “Klinikum Darmstadt” clinic in Darmstadt, Germany, Dec. 12. (REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)

Germany’s constitutional court ruled on Tuesday that lawmakers must protect people with disabilities and pre-existing conditions to ensure they are not discriminated against if over-stretched hospitals are forced to decide who gets care.

According to the decision, the constitution – which stipulates that people with disabilities cannot be discriminated against – was violated by the lack of government provisions to ensure fair treatment of disabled people if hospitals have to prioritize.

The court ruled that lawmakers must act “without delay” to set out legally binding criteria to protect vulnerable people but it did not say how that should be done.

Nine people with disabilities and pre-existing conditions filed the complaints at the court in Karlsruhe, as the coronavirus pandemic pushes hospitals to their limits.

The complainants, who point out that they are at high risk of becoming severely ill or dying from COVID-19, fear that due to their statistically lower level of survival, they would always have lowest priority for an intensive care bed.

The court rejected the case in July 2020, saying that regulating medical prioritization raised difficult questions and that a triage situation did not seem likely.