BONN, Germany — Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference, welcomed the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court ordering the parliament to immediately establish rules to protect people with disabilities from losing out in triage decisions made during the coronavirus pandemic.
The German Catholic news agency KNA reported Bätzing said it was an important signal for the protection of people with disabilities from discrimination. Triage refers to deciding which patients are to be treated first if medical assistance cannot be provided to everyone.
“The community faces the urgent task of learning from the pandemic and quickly drawing the necessary conclusions to ensure sufficient medical care for the population, even in difficult situations,” Bätzing said in Bonn Dec. 28.
Annette Kurschus, president of the Protestant Church in Germany, also praised that the court “has made it clear: There must be no discrimination against disabled people in a possible triage in the context of intensive medical treatments.”
Kurschus and Bätzing noted that the state had a concrete duty to protect its citizens and to ensure that no such discrimination occurs. In addition, it must do everything possible to ensure that the health system is not overburdened in the first place, they said.
The court said Dec. 28 that lawmakers had failed to take precautionary measures “so that no one is disadvantaged because of a disability in the allocation of vital intensive care resources not available to all.”
The complaint had been submitted by nine people with disabilities and preexisting conditions who were concerned that they might receive less assistance than others as a result of their condition.
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, whose ministry is likely to be in charge of implementing the decision, said people with disabilities are in greater need of state protection than anyone else.
Eugen Brysch, chairman of the German Foundation for Patient Protection, also voiced his satisfaction, saying he “could not have wished for a better ruling.” He noted it was up to the Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, to take action.
Franz-Josef Bormann, a Catholic moral theologian from Tübingen who is a member of the German Ethics Council, said the general principle of equality enshrined in the German Constitution should not be undermined even in triage situations.
In recent months, medical organizations have developed criteria for triage and put them up for discussion. First and foremost, they referred to the patient’s will and the chance of survival, but age or disability should not be determinant factors. It is often discussed whether a distinction should be made between vaccinated patients and those who voluntarily remain unvaccinated.