April 15, 2020 – Triage: Maintaining a Catholic Ethic in Difficult Times


The COVID-19 Coronavirus has been challenging. One challenge has been determining how scarce medical resources are allocated among patients, particularly when the patients outnumber the available resources. The process of determining how different medical situations are prioritized, and then applying care and resources to people in those situations, is known as triage. The goal of triage is to save human lives to the greatest extent possible.

With COVID-19, the most pertinent question is this: if there is a shortage of ventilators in a hospital, what criteria should determine who gets a ventilator first? Ideally, there would be no shortages, but that is unfortunately not the case. Due to the intrinsic dignity of the human person, all people must be treated with equal respect in every situation, including difficult ones. A crisis is not an excuse for violating the dignity of a single human person made in God’s image and likeness (Gen. 1:26), particularly the most vulnerable, such as the handicapped and elderly.