Eugenic Cleansing in a Pandemic

The Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services were among the groups represented on Task Force preparing the recommendations on Pandemic preparedness published in the MAy 5, 2208 issue of CHEST, the official publication of the American College of Chest Physicians.

The recommendations are intended to ensure that health care providers follow a common set of criteria in deciding who gets life-sustaining treatment when a pandemic arrives. Among those lives to be sacrificed for the greater good are those with severe mental impairments and severe chronic illness.

While the guidelines do not include names or pictures of the individuals presumably cast out of Kohlberg’s lifeboat, it is pretty clear that many people with significant disabilities will be left to sink in or swim on their own in some very rough seas. These guidelines suggest that even before a clear shortage of medical resources is identified, available resources may be denied to people with disabilities on the chance that someone “more worthy of saving” might require them later.

During the darkest days of eugenics, the same philosophy led institutional physicians to coin the term “therapeutic pneumonia” to suggest that high institutional death rates were actually a good thing. While many of the practices recommended by the task force fly in the face of human rights, the assumption is that human rights are a luxury that must be dispensed with in times of crisis. For those who still hold eugenic ideals, the guidelines may prove a useful tool to ensure that a pandemic does their dirty work for them

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