One Man’s COVID-19 Death Raises The Worst Fears Of Many People With Disabilities


What Melissa Hickson says happened to her husband — and what the hospital says — are in conflict.

But this much is for sure: Michael Hickson, a 46-year old quadriplegic who’d contracted COVID-19, died at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center in Austin, Texas, on June 11 after the hospital ended treatment for him and moved him from the intensive care unit to hospice care.

Melissa Hickson says her husband was denied potentially lifesaving treatment because doctors at the hospital made a decision based on their biases that, because of his disabilities, Michael Hickson had a low quality of life…

Michael Hickson’s death has become a cause among many with disabilities, an emblem of a medical system that they believe views their lives as having less value, even before a pandemic put doctors and hospitals under stress.

And now Hickson’s death may get the scrutiny of a federal civil rights office…

That day at St. David’s hospital, on June 5, the medical staff had something to tell Melissa Hickson. They were going to stop treating her husband. And move him from the ICU to hospice care.

In the hallway, Hickson found the doctor. She asked why. And she recorded their conversation.

The recording is hard to hear, the doctor’s voice a bit distant. But he tells Hickson: “The decision is: Do we want to be extremely aggressive with his care or do we feel like this would be futile?”

And then he adds: “As of right now, his quality of life — he doesn’t have much of one.”

Hickson challenges the doctor. “What do you mean?” she asks. “Because he’s paralyzed with a brain injury, he doesn’t have quality of life?”

“Correct,” the doctor replies.

Read the full investigative report at NPR.org…

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