ACLU Comment on HHS Guidance on Disability Rights During COVID-19 Pandemic

March 28, 2020 7:15 pm

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WASHINGTON — The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights today issued a bulletin stating, among other items, that “persons with disabilities should not be denied medical care on the basis of stereotypes, assessments of quality of life, or judgments about a person’s relative ‘worth’ based on the presence or absence of disabilities.”

The bulletin, however, goes on to inaccurately assert that the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act “may provide immunity from certain liability under civil rights law.”

Below is comment from Susan Mizner, director of the ACLU’s Disability Rights Program, in response:

“This bulletin is a welcome reminder for states that, even in times of crisis, discrimination against people with disabilities is never the answer. The bulletin, however, inaccurately asserts that the PREP Act ‘may provide immunity from certain liability under civil rights law.’ To be clear, the PREP Act does not limit civil rights enforcement or liability under civil rights law. HHS must immediately correct this flawed assertion, which contradicts the spirit of its bulletin. At the same time, HHS should provide states, providers, and the public more comprehensive guidance to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in the allocation of scarce medical resources.”

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