Neurology

Ethical decision-making for children with neuromuscular disorders in the COVID-19 crisis


The sudden appearance and proliferation of coronavirus disease 2019 has forced societies and governmental authorities across the world to confront the possibility of resource constraints when critical care facilities are overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of grievously ill patients. As governments and health care systems develop and update policies and guidelines regarding the allocation of resources, patients and families affected by chronic disabilities, including many neuromuscular disorders that affect children and young adults, have become alarmed at the possibility that they may be determined to have less favorable prognoses due to their underlying diagnoses and thus be assigned to lower priority groups. It is important for health care workers, policymakers, and government officials to be aware that the long-term prognoses for children and young adults with neuromuscular disorders are often more promising than previously believed due to a better understanding of the natural history of these diseases, benefits of multidisciplinary supportive care, and novel molecular therapies that can dramatically improve the disease course. Although the realities of a global pandemic have the potential to require a shift from our usual, highly individualistic standards of care to crisis standards of care, shifting priorities should nonetheless be informed by good facts. Resource allocation guidelines with the potential to affect children and young adults with neuromuscular disorders should take into account the known trajectory of acute respiratory illness in this population and rely primarily on contemporary long-term outcome data.

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