Bioethics Forum

People with Disabilities – Challenges for Hospitals

Tagungszentrum Kardinal Wendel Haus, Vortragssaal, Mandlstraße 23, 80802 München

Podiumsdiskussion (v. l.): Elisabeth Steinhagen-Thiessen, Michael Wunder, Peter Radtke, Inge Richter und Jeanne Nicklas-Faust, Deutscher Ethikrat, Fotografin: Bettina Lindenberg


During an inpatient hospital stay, people with disabilities require care and treatment that place special demands on hospital staff. Diagnosis, therapy, and care are associated with additional effort and complications. Possible interactions between the symptoms of the disease to be treated and the disability sometimes make a diagnosis more difficult. In addition, the nursing staff is often not adequately equipped to cater to the special physical and emotional needs of the patients who, depending on the type of disability, require special assistance or are dependent on the involvement of a familiar caregiver.

There are numerous indications that patients with disabilities do not receive adequate care during their hospital stay. Professional associations and organisations of disability assistance have repeatedly brought this problem into the health policy discourse. Nevertheless, Germany is still a long way from enabling people with disabilities to participate adequately in the health system, as enshrined in Article 25 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The problem cannot be solved with barrier-free access alone, but requires that the structure and organization of hospital operations as a whole are taken into account.

Together with people directly affected and representatives from the health service, care provision and care research, the Ethics Council wishes to direct public attention to the current debate over deficits in hospital services for people with disabilities, and explore possible solutions by looking at existing, well-functioning models, such as social-paediatric centers.

The event focuses on the following questions:

  • To what extent do the general conditions in a hospital conflict with the needs of people with disabilities?
  • Which standards of care and treatment are required?
  • What examples of good practice exist?
  • To what extent can the problems be transferred to other patient groups in the hospital?