A top constitutional court of Germany has ordered the German parliament to “immediately” protect people with disabilities after complaints that the coronavirus pandemic could leave them untreated by doctors at hospitals.

The Federal Constitutional Court said on Tuesday that the legislature had a duty to act because of the risk to life.

The legislature had so far violated this duty as it had not taken the necessary precautions and it must decide on legally binding rules in times of a pandemic.

The word triage comes from the French verb “trier,” which means “to sort” or “to select.” It describes a situation in which doctors have to decide who to treat and who not to treat – a decision, for example, that face doctors now because so many seriously ill coronavirus patients come into hospitals.

Nine people with disabilities and pre-existing conditions filed a constitutional complaint as they feared being abandoned by doctors if there was no appropriate legislation.

Germany’s highest court ruled in their favour: no one may be disadvantaged because of a disability in the allocation of intensive medical treatment resources that are vital for survival and not available to all.

Current recommendations by the responsible bodies were not legally binding, the court pointed out.

The rate of admissions to intensive care in Germany due to Covid has come down in recent weeks and currently stands at 3.26 people per 100,000 people over the past week. But authorities have warned that intensive care wards and workers are still under very high pressure.

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