Protecting Disability Rights in a Pandemic

Friday, March 11, 2022 13:00to14:30

Laura Guidry-Grimes, PhD, HEC-C. Moderated by Jonas-Sébastien Beaudry

On Zoom

During a public health crisis, healthcare institutions may have to adapt resources (staff, space, and supplies) and adjust the standard of care. When the crisis permits, institutions first adopt contingency standards of care, which the U.S. Institute of Medicine (IOM) describes as “functionally equivalent” care. If the crisis worsens such that resource shortages and patient morbidity/mortality increase, then the institutions have to shift to crisis standards of care. The COVID-19 pandemic led to prolonged contingency standards in hospitals and clinics throughout the world (which led to care that was often far from “functionally equivalent”), and crisis standards were quickly planned in case necessary. Along the way, even when institutions did not implement formal triage, many areas reported “informal triage,” where emergency departments and first responders did not accept patients who would normally have been admitted to the hospital. Historically marginalized and underserved groups have been disproportionately impacted by the formal and informal decisions of those in positions of power.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the many layers of vulnerability that persons with physical, intellectual, and psychiatric disabilities can have in a public health crisis. These vulnerabilities are the result of many factors, including entrenched and systemic disability bias in healthcare, congregate care facilities without proper funding or support, and the routine exclusion of disabled persons in decision-making that directly affects their well-being.

In this talk, Dr. Guidry-Grimes will discuss the theoretical foundations of disability rights during a public health crisis. She will approach this topic as a U.S.-based clinical ethicist and philosopher with a specialization in disability bioethics. She will analyze justice in terms of distribution and recognition, building on the work of Nancy Fraser and disability studies scholars. She will connect conceptual points about justice with the four elements of the IOM vision statement for public health crises, which emphasizes fairness; equitable processes; community and provider engagement, education, and communication; and the rule of law. Her analysis will cover both crisis standards of care and contingency standards of care, the latter of which did not receive sufficient normative analysis before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

About the speaker

Laura Guidry-Grimes, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor. Dr. Guidry-Grimes received her doctorate in philosophy at Georgetown University. She worked from 2015-2017 as a clinical ethicist in the MedStar health system in Washington, D.C. and since 2017 has been working in clinical ethics consultation services at UAMS and Arkansas Children’s Hospital.  Dr. Guidry-Grimes is also interested in disability advocacy, ethics of psychiatry, and determining how best to understand vulnerability in health care.  Read more about Dr. Guidry-Grimes.

Questions may be directed to jonas-sebastien.beaudry [at] mcgill.ca.

We hope to see you there! 

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