It has been reported by ARCH Disability Law Centre and the media that the government is considering seeking an executive order that would amend the Health Care Consent Act such that physicians would be able to unilaterally remove ventilators from patients. This would presumably be to facilitate the re-allocation of those resources to other patients, such as those in greater need or with a greater chance of recovery.
Deciding who ought to get a ventilator is a tricky business without obvious answers. With each ethical approach comes an expression of our values about who deserves saving.
Allocating resources based on best outcomes is a seemingly sound approach, but underlying socio-economic factors may position patients to be at a greater or lesser chance of being given prolonged access to the elusive ventilators. Because of the social determinants of health, someone born into poverty may be set up for further exclusion in this model. Someone with social connections to physicians may have an advantage (as we’ve seen play out during the distribution of vaccines to privileged individuals who do not meet the criteria for the first phase).