‘Crisis care standards’ in Arizona are code for COVID-19 death panels

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Dr. Cara Christ, state Department of Health Services director, announces activating crisis standards of care for Arizona hospitals on June 29, 2020.

Arizona Republic

Opinion: It didn’t have to come to this. The health care professionals who asked for the standards recognize Arizona reopened too early.

Gov. Doug Ducey and Dr. Cara M. Christ, director for the Arizona Department of Health Services, made it all sound civilized and even non-threatening.

They announced that hospitals dealing with the enormous spike in COVID-19 cases could now activate what they called “crisis care standards.”

That’s the polite version.

In simple terms, these are “death panels.”

It’s ugly. It’s true.

Essentially, the standards allow hospitals to create a kind of scorecard for COVID-19 patients when the resources to treat them are limited. It protects health-care workers from liability when they’re put in a position to decide which patient gets treatment and which … doesn’t.

‘Crisis care’ usually for times of war

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ wear face coverings as they arrive for a news conference to report the latest Arizona coronavirus data on June 25, 2020, in Phoenix. (Photo: Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

At the press conference Ducey said, “It’s not needed today, but we’re anticipating that it will be there in the future. This is our time to act to save and protect as many Arizona lives as possible.”

Actually, the time to act passed a few months ago.

Ignoring Donald Trump and maintaining a stay-at-home order would have saved as many Arizona lives as possible. Even now, taking more stringent measures might save more lives.

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The health care professionals who urged Ducey to allow the standards (and also to reinstate his stay-at-home order, which he ignored) said they never thought they’d be asking for such a thing.

Will Humble, the executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, said, “It’s the only time that this has happened in my lifetime. I mean they used it in Vietnam, and they use it in war. But for civilian purposes, I can’t think of a time when this has been implemented.”

The Republicans who opposed the Affordable Care Act tried to scuttle the law with a false claim that it would create “death panels.” That wasn’t true. It didn’t happen.

Now, under the botched management of pandemic response by a Republican administration and, in Arizona’s case, a Republican governor, those death panels are here. They’re real.

They come under the civilized-sounding name of “crisis care standards.”

But there’s nothing civilized about it.

Not one thing.

Reach Montini at ed.montini@arizonarepublic.com.

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