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Ethics committee for Covid-19 life and death under attack

Health Minister Nickolas Steele – walking on dangerous grounds

A leading Caribbean attorney-at-law has blasted the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government for its announcement that an Ethics Committee will be set up to determine who will or will not get access to treatment at the island’s health facilities in the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawyer called THE NEW TODAY to express reservations about the committee which Health Minister Nickolas Steele said would be set up within a matter of days.

“This committee can only be applying non-medical and non-scientific considerations in order to decide who gets help because if this is not the case then there will be no need for an Ethics Committee – the doctors and nurses will make that decision as is their duty to do so,” he said.

The attorney described Prime Minister Mitchell and Minister Steele as becoming “enemies of the people” for advancing the idea of putting in place an Ethics Committee at this point in time.

According to the regional legal expert, he is getting the impression that the NNP regime is showing signs that the government has collapsed and is incapable of handling the Covid-19 pandemic in the Spice Isle.

“You don’t want a committee – you want a dedicated Centre for the treatment of the disease, a focused place where Covid-19 patients are separated from the ordinary patients, so you can focus and deal with them,” he said.

The attorney pointed out that one of the two primary obligations of the State is to look after the welfare of the people and that includes public health and access to treatment.

“It is for the provision of these services that taxes are paid and those taxes are paid not as a purchase of those services by those who can pay tax but a contribution by those who pay taxes for all the people to benefit. Therefore, access to health services and treatment by the State is not available only to those who pay tax,” he said.

The top regional legal expert stressed that healthcare and healthcare services are a public good and the State has an obligation to provide those services to all the people and not a select bunch.

“No conditions other than practical considerations or priority in terms of age, severity of disease and treatment options can legitimately be applied to impede citizens’ access to healthcare and health services,” he said.

The attorney-at-law labelled the recent announcement on the creation of an Ethics Committee by the Mitchell government to determine who gets Covid-19 treatment as “a travesty and only indicates the insensitivity and incompetence of this government because ethics have nothing to do with who gets treatment and who does not.”

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“Ethics have nothing to do with who should live and who should die. In fact, the State has no right to determine who should live and who should die,” he said.

The legal official argued that in a public health crisis such as a global pandemic, “the concern of all legitimate governments must be preservation of life and public health.”

“By what criteria is this Ethics Committee determining who should live? “Why politicians get involved? What is Ethics? Why an Ethic Committee? What are the Ethics involved in determining whether people get healthcare? Ethics is really moral principles or considerations that regulate human behaviour – so what are they saying those who they consider to be immoral will not be treated.

“Was the idea for this Ethics Committee provoked by the defiance of the hundreds of Jab Jabs? Or is it a panic response to a situation admittedly out of control? Either which way, it makes no sense.

“To suggest that an Ethics Committee will decide whether and how Covid-19 patients will be treated in the present deepening public health crisis is an admission of incompetence and a complete lack of focus and ideas in this administration.

“Surely what is needed is a drive to ensure the vaccination of Healthcare providers and other Essential frontline responders in addition to a dedicated Centre for Covid treatment and recovery.

According to the lawyer, it is apparent that the NNP regime is not looking in this direction because they “have totally lost control” of the Covid-19 situation in the country.

“The government is lacking in co-ordination, lacking in leadership, focus and perspective as the leadership is out of touch,” he said.

The lawyer expressed fears that this planned Ethics Committee will only serve to follow what he labelled as “the dictates of an irrational Directorate and not scientific principles.”

The lawyer said it appears that nothing being done by the Mitchell government to fight Covid-19 in Grenada is seemingly making any sense at the moment and it is lacking in “effective or practical solution” to handle the situation.

“The suggestion of this Ethic Committee is a sad joke – the government is clueless and hapless, not hopeless but hapless,” he said.