Viewpoint: Hospitals should not discriminate against the unvaccinated

As hospitals are again overwhelmed with by COVID-19 patients, opinion pieces in The Washington Post have argued  that health systems should prioritize the vaccinated or even consider refusing to treat the unvaccinated. However, that would set a dangerous precedent for ethics and public health, Atlantic science writer Ed Yong wrote Jan. 20. 

After interviewing a number of ethicists, he argued that medical care should be offered in line with the severity of a patient's emergency and should not consider one's behavior. For example, those who smoke cigarettes or get in car accidents without wearing seatbelts are still treated in hospitals, Yong wrote. 

"We don’t use the medical-care system as a way of meting out justice. We don’t use it to punish people for their social choices," said Matt Wynia, MD, a medical ethicist at the University of Colorado.

The unvaccinated population of the U.S. is also disproportionately poor and those who would consider getting a vaccine outnumber those who say they never would, Mr. Yong wrote. This suggests factors beyond some people's control are preventing them from getting vaccinated, whether that be a rural location, lack of sick leave or no internet access. 

"Blaming or neglecting unvaccinated people won’t save the healthcare system or end the pandemic. It will just be the latest manifestation of America’s instinct to punish individuals for societal failures," Mr. Yong wrote.

Read the full article here.


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