It's Time to Return to Vigorous Medical Debate

The world has been living with COVID-19 for more than eighteen months now.  I think they call this the new normal.  If by now you haven't developed natural immunity to the virus, there are a half-dozen or so COVID-19 vaccines and candidates publicly available to you or in approval stages.  The bulk of the country is mostly open, and many states have been for six to eight months or more.  As the summer wanes and a return to school approaches, we're beginning to hear the mutterings of an all too familiar disease management style that places an outsized emphasis on reduced public interaction, masking, and even lockdowns.

These measures have had disastrous consequences economically, with skyrocketing inflation and supply chain disruptions. They've taken an enormous toll on the physical and mental health of the public as suppressed treatment and diagnosis for other ailments have resulted in increased morbidity and mortality separate from COVID-19.  Perhaps the greatest impact yet to be fully realized has been on the educational and developmental progress of our children.  Given the toll these measures have taken on the population, we should avoid re-implementing them to the greatest extent possible.  This is what was promised when the vaccine would arrive.  Yet new calls for these measures do not exempt the vaccinated, as the vaccines are potentially proving to be less of the panacea that we had hoped for, and science has begun considering booster shots

As someone married into the medical community, I was exceedingly frustrated with how this disease was politicized.  I am not interested in looking to lay political blame for the disease.  I live my life in the best manner I know how to protect myself and my family, unlike the politburo who wished to usurp this responsibility for themselves in the pursuit of control.  From day one, my focus has been looking for actual guidance for all of us who are inevitably affected by the disease.  As someone with over fifty family members who have contracted the disease, I am acutely aware that it eventually affects us all in some manner.  My greatest disappointment lies with the medical community, who largely abandoned the vigorous scientific debate and adopted a subservient position to top-down political authority.  Now that the vaccines are here and the calls for draconian lockdowns and masking have begun to re-emerge, it's time for medical science to return to vigorous debate.

Last November, world-renowned internist and cardiologist Dr. Peter McCullough spoke in front of several government bodies, voicing his frustration with how the medical community managed COVID-19.  Chief among his complaints was the abdication of responsibility in managing the disease in its earliest stages to prevent hospitalization.  You or someone you know likely experienced the "go home until you can't breathe" protocol.  Given that the entire purpose of the lockdowns was "15 days to slow the spread" and to protect hospital capacity, McCullough found zero justification provided for neglecting an aggressive outpatient medical approach to keeping patients out of the hospitals. He wasn't alone in his critique.

Another primary complaint of Dr. McCullough's has been the suppression of debate not just in the public sphere, but in the medical sphere as well.  Ask any physician, and you will find that vigorous debate is the lifeblood of medical science.  This is how we test ideas against others and arrive at better conclusions.  Yet throughout the pandemic, there was largely only one physician approved to provide national guidance in the National Institute of Health's Dr. Anthony Fauci.  It wasn't until November of last year that Dr. Fauci published a recommendation to focus on outpatient treatment.  Did the timing coincide with increasingly vocal critics like Dr. McCullough, or was the nine-month delay most likely awaiting the arrival of the vaccines?  Whatever the reason, untold lives had been lost while physicians were left with little to no outpatient guidance on the matter.  For their part, a plurality of the medical community didn't question this and merely deferred treatment to the hospitals once patients progressed to late-stage disease.

Dr. McCullough's protests echoed many of those levied by much of the medical community, who felt as though alternative voices had been silenced in the public square.  As we saw with the America's Frontline Doctors organization, a consortium of independent physicians who boldly stepped out in support of medical debate on COVID-19, any dialogue was sharply frowned upon and squelched.  We saw the same with Yale epidemiologist Dr. Harvey Risch, pulmonologist Dr. Pierre Kory, and many others who promoted aggressive outpatient treatment with readily available and inexpensive therapeutics like monoclonal antibodies, ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, and budesonide.

The government's response to these physicians was to take options out of the hands of physicians by getting the state pharmacy boards to ban access to them.  This runs contrary to the notion of practicing medicine and physician discretion.  In the absence of alternatives in the face of novel disease, doing nothing has never seemed a reasonable alternative.  Yet this is exactly the response of much of the medical community.  At a minimum, patients needed for practitioners to instill hope and positivity and not fear and gloom.  Their refusal to engage in disease management signaled to the patient that their fate was left to chance.

Though Peter McCullough is one of the most published internists in the world, the powers that be have censored his medical expertise across social media when it didn't comport with political agendas.  Just last week, Twitter once again suspended McCullough's COVID-19 Response Panel for spreading alleged medical disinformation.  We're all too fortunate that Silicon Valley employs social media interns to keep these rogue world-renowned experts in line. 

How is it that, eighteen months into a pandemic with multiple options for vaccination and a diminishing disease state, experts are still being shut out of the public conversation?  This is unacceptable.  As we head into viral season and a supposed fourth wave of disease in the coming months, it's imperative that vigorous debate is once again opened and that we end the pandemic on a high note with early and aggressive outpatient treatment. 

Image via Max Pixel.

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