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The COVID-19 pandemic is posing ethical and legal questions about who makes medical decisions for those who can’t do so on their own

A recent Pennsylvania ruling highlights the challenges guardians may have in making medical decisions for adults with disabilities during the pandemic.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Adults with disabilities are more likely than others to want the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a CDC study.

But getting the vaccine isn’t always simple, as some people need help making medical decisions.

Some adults are appointed a legal guardian, who has the final say over medical decisions.

“As far as the medical decision for someone with a disability, a lot of it depends on whether or not there’s a guardianship that’s already been appointed,” said attorney Scott Cooper, partner at Schmidt Kramer law firm.

Disability advocates say guardians should consider the desires of their legal wards.

“I think every individual has the right to make that decision,” said Sherri Landis, executive director of The Arc of Pennsylvania. “As far as personal decisions, it’s a personal decision. We strongly encourage parents and guardians to engage and make it a joint decision.”

Amid the political controversy over vaccines, guardians’ decisions are already facing court challenges.

A Chester County judge recently sided with a father seeking to vaccinate his adult disabled daughter over her mother’s objections. Both parents were co-guardians of their daughter.

The case highlighted the medical decision-making process, but also custody issues.

“The judge applied what he thought would be the best interest of the person,” Cooper said.

Even when the decision is made to get the vaccine, people don’t always end up doing it.

Though adults with disabilities want the vaccine more than the average population, the CDC study also shows they have lower than average vaccination rates.

There are a few possible reasons for the lower vaccination rates, including extra barriers like difficulty scheduling an appointment or lack of transportation.

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