Disability, Ethics, and Health Care in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Maya Sabatello, Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, Katherine E McDonald, Paul S Appelbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article considers key ethical, legal, and medical dilemmas arising for people with disabilities in the COVID-19 pandemic. We highlight the limited application of existing frameworks of emergency planning with and for people with disabilities in the COVID-19 pandemic, explore key concerns and issues affecting the health care of people with disabilities (i.e., access to information and clinician-patient communication, nondiscrimination and reasonable accommodations, and rationing of medical goods), and indicate possible solutions. Finally, we suggest clinical and public health policy measures to ensure that people with disabilities are included in the planning of future pandemic-related efforts.The devastation evoked by the COVID-19 pandemic raises challenging dilemmas in bioethics. It also speaks to social justice issues that have plagued historically marginalized communities in the United States.Responses to the pandemic must be bound by legal standards, principles of distributive justice, and societal norms of protecting vulnerable populations-core commitments of public health-to ensure that inequities are not exacerbated, and should provide a pathway for improvements to ensure equitable access and treatment in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1523-1527
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Public Health
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2020


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