CARP weighs in on COVID-19 triage protocols with Ontario Human Rights Commission

On May 7, 2020 CARP sat on a panel of experts in the fields of law, human rights, and aging to highlight points of concern for older adults regarding the Ontario government’s clinical triage protocols—a set of measures created to deal with a potential surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

CARP feels strongly that any process to develop clinical triage protocols must include human rights experts and representatives from vulnerable groups who may be disproportionately affected by any protocol, including older adults.

CARP’s position is unequivocal: triage criteria cannot include a patient’s age, probable lifespan following successful treatment, or the patient’s additional care needs following treatment.

“There is one big risk and that is, in evaluating the likelihood of success or failure based solely on the medical facts in evidence, a physician or other person may unconsciously bring other factors into play, including age and lifespan years remaining,” says Marissa Lennox, CARP’s Chief Policy Officer. “Given this risk, it becomes critically important to document triage decisions and to clearly show the clinical evidence for arriving at a judgment.”

Lastly, triaging or rationing of resources cannot be used as an excuse for bad planning. “We must be very incisive in our analysis of what would constitute an adequate supply of ventilators, PPE, etc. as we look forward to a possible surge in hospitalizations during the next phase of this pandemic,” warns Lennox.