At this time of a highly contagious pandemic, our healthcare providers are performing heroic actions daily in serving our communities. We commend and are grateful for their efforts and ask the Holy Spirit to guide their decisions and provide them and their patients with wisdom, fortitude, and prudence. We also commend and are grateful for the efforts of Governor Greg Abbott and Commissioner of the Department of State Health Services, Dr. John Hellerstedt, in prioritizing the procurement of healthcare supplies and resources. These valiant efforts by our leaders are being made amid the most difficult of circumstances caused by this pandemic. These circumstances are rapidly changing, putting healthcare facilities in a position in which professionals may be prompted to make difficult decisions regarding the allocation of healthcare resources which have increasingly limited availability.
In the midst of such difficult circumstances, the Catholic Bishops of Texas support healthcare professionals developing Mass Critical Care Guidelines based on sound bioethical principles that prioritize the protection and reverence for human life. Such guidelines should reject rationing of healthcare resources based solely on age, disability, or future “quality of life” decisions. When decisions must be made regarding the allocation of scarce resources, they should be based on objective clinical indicators, the effectiveness of the scarce healthcare interventions in each case, and the likelihood of those interventions contributing to the survival of each patient, which clinical criteria indicate can be sustained without indefinite prolongation of such interventions. Acknowledging the poor who often lack access to healthcare proportionate to their need during a disaster, scarce resources must also be distributed broadly across communities so that all patients have the best possible access to care. These critical medical triage decisions are best left to the professional judgement of healthcare providers. In order to encourage this sound practice of medicine, the Bishops support the Governor waiving regulations and statutes which could result in fines, civil liability, and even criminal charges for decisions related to the allocation of resources during this declared disaster. Healthcare workers who sacrificially risk their own safety to save their patients’ lives should not have to fear punitive action for making the best possible decisions in extremely difficult situations.
Stewardship of scarce health resources demands respect for all human life, preservation of human dignity, concern for the common good and the continued flourishing of society in the aftermath of this pandemic. Let us place our unwavering trust in God’s limitless mercy and provision of all our physical and spiritual needs.
This statement is signed by all the Catholic Bishops of Texas with the exception of Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler. The Diocese of Tyler includes 33 counties in east Texas. Bishop Strickland has expressed the opinion the development of Mass Critical Care Guidelines is not appropriate for the residents of the Diocese of Tyler.
- USCCB, Statements on Coronavirus, available at http://www.usccb.org/news/2020/20-45.cfm.
- National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), Resources for Covid-19, available at https://ncbcstore.org/ncbc-resources-for-covid19
- Catholic Health Association, Coronavirus Resources, available at https://www.chausa.org/newsroom/coronavirus-resources/.