Just days before the second anniversary of the March 13, 2020, COVID-19 emergency declaration, masks finally are dropping from faces as swiftly as infection rates are plunging nationwide. But before C-19 totally recedes into the history books, an important legal question lingers: Can government ration life-saving cures based on race?
Believe it or not, government regulations have parceled out monoclonal antibodies to C-19 patients according to their skin color. The New York State Department of Health instructs doctors that “non-white race or Hispanic/Latino ethnicity should be considered a risk factor, as longstanding systemic health and social inequities have contributed to an increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.”
This approach assumes that morbidity should take a back seat to melanin. All other things being equal, for instance, a white patient with a 103-degree fever and the shakes should wait for this rare treatment while an otherwise healthy black person steps up and gets the I.V. drip.
This potentially lethal policy correctly seemed racist to Jonathan Roberts and Charles Vavruska, my occasional co-writer. So, they did what Americans normally do: They filed a federal lawsuit to kill these prejudiced rules.
“Both Plaintiffs want the ability to access oral antiviral or monoclonal antibody treatments on an equal basis, without regard to their race, if they contract COVID-19,” their litigation reads.
“We eagerly await the day on which the supplies for these medical treatments can match demand,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Wen Fa. The Pacific Legal Foundation consul added, “But until that time, treatments should be allocated on the basis of need and scientific criteria, not on the basis of arbitrary racial classifications.”
The Empire State’s bureaucracy, of course, claims that the Roberts/Vavruska scenario does not occur. As Health Department spokeswoman Erin Silk told the New York Post, “No one in New York who is otherwise qualified based on their individual risk factors will be turned away from life-saving treatment because of their race or any demographic identifier.”
While he is not a New Yorker, my friend Robert W. Ring knows firsthand that race affects this medication’s distribution.
“I learned in January that I had COVID after coming back to my hotel in New Orleans after an Elton John concert, which was amazing!” he told me. “The next day as I quarantined, I started searching for options to combat the virus. I called a local hospital to inquire about monoclonal antibodies. They read me a list of 15 conditions, asking me to speak up when they stated one that affected me. As they read down the list, ‘Cancer, diabetes, obesity, history of stroke, auto-immune diseases,’ etc., they casually read off ‘African American,’ I stopped them, and said, ‘Excuse me? Did you just say African American?’ So, if I were ailing from other co-morbidities (age was on the list) but I were not black, I wouldn’t be able to get this treatment?’”
Ring, a northern California-based, Japanese-speaking mortgage banker, and hobbyist beekeeper continued: “They advised me that I needed to check three boxes on the list of 15. Race was among them, specifically ‘African-American.’ So, someone who is over 65, is obese, or has a history of immune issues, diabetes, or something else on the list, but is not African-American, would not have access to this life-saving treatment.”
What did Ring think about this?
“My initial reaction was shock,” he said, “but as I thought about it, I pondered that this unfairly excludes some people who really need this treatment. I then thought, how do they know if you’re African American, aside from the color of your skin? My wife is from Brazil, is white, but on a DNA test, she is 12 percent African. Does she qualify? If so, is she truly more at risk of death by COVID, due to this ancestral heritage?”
Ring gave this even more thought.
“I looked into this further, trying to approach it from a bio-ethics point of view, and from what I’ve found, there seems to be a higher focus on correlation than causation. In studies I’ve read, there appears to be a higher number of co-morbidities amongst African-Americans, than other ethnic groups. That should be noted. However, a focus on co-morbidities as a qualifier for this treatment should be front and center, as opposed to a racially focused approach that ignores causation, and places more weight on correlation. I am not a bioethicist, and I’m not against this treatment being reserved for those who need it, but I questioned the rationale behind this argument when I heard it. I am grateful that I didn’t need the monoclonal antibodies and got through COVID unscathed.”
The unexpected ethnicity of Ring’s wife conjures this scenario:
Elon Musk is from the Republic of South Africa. He is now a triple citizen of the RSA, Canada, and the USA. So, he is a genuine African-American.
Should he, an otherwise healthy man of 50, be given monoclonals, but a 79-year-old grandmother be denied this life-saving drug, even as she is 30 minutes from intubation, just because she is white?
This policy is a perfect example of the Left’s self-righteous bigotry of low expectations. Liberals see blackness neither as a point of pride nor as a neutral characteristic. Rather, for them, being black is an ailment. It’s an ethnic handicap, and the “victims” of this “disease” deserve pity — as if black Americans were relegated to wheelchairs and respirators.
If racism is what you seek, look Left.