On December 27, 2021, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene adopted a discriminatory policy requiring health care providers to prioritize COVID-19 medical treatments based on the patient’s racial classification and ethnicity.
COVID-19 antibody and antiviral treatments, while experimental, are highly effective in preventing severe illness and death. Because they are in short supply, the City adopted a policy, based on state guidelines, to prioritize patients with certain “risk factors.” The policy specifically provides that “Non-white race or Hispanic/Latino ethnicity should be considered a risk factor,” and directs providers to “[c]onsider race and ethnicity when assessing an individual’s risk.” Therefore, a patient classified as “non-white” or “Hispanic/Latino” is automatically prioritized for treatment above a patient who is identical in all respects but is classified as non-Hispanic “white.”
This policy is unconstitutional, immoral, and unethical. By prioritizing patients based on their racial classification and ethnicity, it denies treatment to older “white” patients who would be more likely to benefit from it, while over-medicating young and healthy “non-white” patients who are less likely to need it. For example, under the City’s policy, a healthy 18-year-old woman of Japanese descent would be prioritized above a 64-year-old woman of Italian descent with no known risk factors.