The doctor who is denying care to unvaccinated patients

When the Black Death arrived in Avignon, France, a courageous doctor named Guy de Chauliac stayed to care for the sick even as many of his fellow physicians fled the city.  He wrote that the plague "was so contagious ... that one man caught it from another not just when living nearby but simply by looking at him. ... Father would not visit son, nor son, father; charity was dead, and hope prostrate."  The death rate for bubonic plague rose to 50%.  The mortality rate for pneumonic plague was 100% and death occurred within the first 24 hours of infection.  Dr. de Chauliac didn't have much to work with in the Middle Ages, but he didn't run away from the desperately ill patients who needed his help, even as the bodies piled up in the street.

COVID, our modern-day "plague," wouldn't even have been noticed in the days of the Black Death.  It has a survival rate of between 97% and 99%.  Although it can kill persons already afflicted with poor health, for the vast majority, it is barely the sniffles.

No self-respecting practitioner of medicine could possibly justify denying care to patients who are not vaccinated against the sniffles.  Yet Dr. Linda Marraccini of Miami, Florida is doing just that — and she was still holding fast to that decision only five weeks ago.

Dr. Marraccini has announced that she will no longer treat patients in person if they are not vaccinated against COVID.  Dr. Marraccini claims she is taking this step because she feels that people who are not vaccinated harm other people.

It's true that she has patients who are immuno-compromised and patients who are undergoing chemotherapy.  No one can deny that COVID can be deadly to such patients.  So can the flu.  However, Dr. Marraccini has not seen fit to deny care to patients based on their flu vaccination status.

Dr. Marraccini refutes the idea that she is violating the Hippocratic Oath.  She insists that she is following the oath when she denies care to unvaccinated patients because she is still willing to see them in a virtual meeting.  I don't have much faith in the notion that a doctor can treat patients through a computer, but that's her story, and she's sticking to it.

Perhaps Dr. Marraccini would do well to ponder the words of the Hippocratic Oath, which states, in part: "I will do no harm. ... I will carry out my art. ... Into whatever homes I go, I will enter them for the benefit of the sick."

Those words would have been very familiar to Guy de Chauliac.  He lived those words every day with the threat of agonizing death hanging over him.  Perhaps Dr. Marraccini would do well to ponder Dr. Chauliac as well while she's deciding if she really wants to deny care to patients based on fear of the sniffles.

Pandra Selivanov is the author of Future Slave, a story about a 21st-century black teenager who goes back in time and becomes a slave in the Old South.

Image: The Dance of Death from the Nuremberg Chronicle, late 15th century.  Public domain.

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