On April 22, 2020 as part of the OBA’s Priority PD program the Constitutional, Civil Liberties and Human Rights law section joined with the Elder Law section to address key issues related to emergency measures for older adults, people with disabilities, and the lawyers who represent them.
The panel was co-chaired by Derek Ross, Executive Director and General Counsel for Christian Legal Fellowship, and Larry Swartz, Barrister and Solicitor.
Three key themes and questions emerged from this excellent presentation. First, governments and policy makers need to resist ableist and ageist assumptions in triaging and resource allocation policies. Second, there are serious concerns about denying or overriding older adults’ right to consent to health care treatment, particularly the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment. Third, visitor policies and isolation raise significant and problematic questions of access to hospital patients and long-term care residents by their families, support workers (i.e. communication assistance), and substitute decision makers.
As written recently by Professor Lemmens, one of the presenters, “it always requires some effort to safeguard human rights, but it can take a pandemic to force our hand and lay bare the depth of our commitment.” This CPD highlighted some of those key concerns. Many remain unresolved and ongoing, and this session provided an important reminder that rights considerations must remain forefront, even – and particularly – under emergency orders.