Doctors Facing Discipline for COVID Misinfo Sue State Medical Board

— Three doctors are alleged to have given patients unproven treatments, including ivermectin

A photo of a white rubber gloved hand holding a box of ivermectin tablets.

Four doctors are suing the Washington Medical Commission, challenging the state licensing body's position statement on COVID-19 misinformation.

Three of the doctors hold active licenses in Washington, but are facing disciplinary action related to their alleged care for COVID patients with unproven treatments and "false and misleading" statements regarding the pandemic. The fourth gave up her Washington license earlier this year.

However, their lawsuit, filed by a Pasco, Washington-based organization called the Silent Majority Foundation on behalf of the doctors, alleges that the medical commission is "using the statement as an enforceable rule although it was not adopted with the procedures for such a rule."

"The Statement implements a specific standard of care and asks the public and practitioners to investigate a complaint if they think a physician or physician assistant is violating the Statement," the complaint argues, noting the commission has "enforced the statement through the mechanism of the Uniform Disciplinary Act."

The trio of plaintiffs facing disciplinary action are Michael Turner, MD, of Pasco; Richard Wilkinson, MD, of Yakima; and Ryan Cole, MD, a resident of Idaho, who also holds a medical license in Washington and other states.

The additional plaintiff is Renata Moon, MD, a resident of Idaho, who also holds medical licenses in other states -- including Washington until earlier this year.

According to the complaint, in January, "Moon, under duress, sought to relinquish her Washington state Medical license, despite having no complaints against her, because she was speaking out against certain COVID public policies, such as vaccination of healthy children for a disease that was unlikely to have a negative impact on them even if they contracted it."

"Silent Majority Foundation filed this lawsuit on behalf of these four providers to challenge the Washington Medical Commission's COVID-19 Position Statement in which the commission adopted a standard of care without proper implementation," Pete Serrano, director and general counsel at the Silent Majority Foundation, who is representing the doctors in the lawsuit, said in a statement provided to MedPage Today in an email.

"The most critical element of the rulemaking process is the notice and comment period prior to the adoption of a rule, and the commission failed to use that process in this instance," the statement continued. "Even if the commission would have employed the necessary rulemaking procedures in its adoption of the position statement, the statement violates the providers' rights to free speech."

The medical commission declined to comment on the matter. However, in publicly available documents regarding pending disciplinary action against Turner, Wilkinson, and Cole, the commission has detailed the respective allegations against them.

The commission's statement of charges against Turner alleges that he prescribed ivermectin to a number of patients related to the prevention or treatment of COVID, citing in at least one case he did so without sufficient evidence of its effectiveness to that end and without the consideration of certain risks.

In 2021, in the case of one older patient, who later died and was unnamed in the statement of charges, Turner is alleged to have "failed to discuss alternative treatments for Patient A who was 74-years-old, obese, suffered from PTSD, unvaccinated, and with a COVID-19 infection and therefore at high risk of getting seriously ill."

"A high-risk patient who is within ten days of the onset of illness should be offered monoclonal antibodies," the statement of charges continues. "Respondent failed to discuss with Patient A the use of monoclonal antibodies to treat Patient A's COVID-19 infection."

Wilkinson is alleged to have made "false and misleading statements" on his website related to the pandemic, COVID vaccines, and public health officials as well as provided "negligent care" to a number of patients for the prevention and treatment of COVID, according to the medical commission's statement of charges against him.

In 2021, in the case of one unnamed patient -- a 65-year-old who had previously tested positive for COVID in the emergency department and received supplemental oxygen and IV dexamethasone but refused treatment with remdesivir and baricitinib -- Wilkinson allegedly prescribed ivermectin (which the patient had already been taking) as well as azithromycin, prednisone, nebulized budesonide, heparin, zinc, melatonin, and vitamin C, according to the statement of charges.

When the patient ultimately returned to the emergency department, "Patient D told hospital personnel that based on Respondent's advice, he was not vaccinated against COVID-19, and had been taking ivermectin and supplemental oxygen at home, but his symptoms had worsened," the statement of charges alleged. The patient is said to have been diagnosed with acute hypoxic respiratory failure, and later died in the hospital from pneumonia due to COVID.

Cole is also alleged to have made "false and misleading statements" during public presentations related to the pandemic, COVID vaccines, the use of ivermectin to treat COVID, and the harmfulness of face masks to individual patients, according to the medical commission's statement of charges against him.

He is further said to have provided "negligent care" to a number of patients for the prevention and treatment of COVID.

In 2021, in the case of an unnamed 69-year-old patient who had a body mass index of 35, worked with seniors, and was treated over a virtual telemedicine platform, the patient indicated that she did not have COVID, was seeking ivermectin, and was not vaccinated, according to the statement of charges.

"Respondent prescribed ivermectin to Patient B, without seeing or physically examining her, instructing her to take 18 mg weekly, authorizing a 28-day supply, and granting two refills," the statement of charges alleged. "He also recommended that Patient B take 400 mg of magnesium citrate and 100 mcg vitamin K2 daily and to double her dose of ivermectin if she tested positive for COVID-19."

In their lawsuit against the medical commission, however, the physicians contend that they have suffered reputational and professional harm as a result of the investigations into them spurred by the commission's position statement on COVID misinformation.

"The distinction between the Plaintiffs and other medical professional[s] who were not investigated and charged under the Statement is that plaintiffs dissented politically, scientifically and medically from health officials on various matters related to COVID," the complaint states. "When threats to Plaintiffs' licenses and practices by the Commission as well as criticism by politicians and from mainstream and social media personalities could not silence these Plaintiffs, the Commission threatened and took punitive action, based on the Position Statement. This is simply due to Plaintiffs' disagreement with the mainstream policies for the treatment of COVID-19."

In their lawsuit, the physicians are asking that the court stay all of the medical commission's charges against them related to the enforcement of its COVID misinformation position statement, COVID "misinformation" or "disinformation," claims their speech affected the medical community or community at large, and their prescription of or treatment with ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.

They're further asking the court to stay all other disciplinary actions related to such factors, and requesting the reinstatement of Moon's license, declaratory judgment against the medical commission's position statement on COVID misinformation, a stay of all commission proceedings related to the prescription of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID or "misinformation" related to COVID, attorney's fees, and any other relief to which they may be entitled.

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    Jennifer Henderson joined MedPage Today as an enterprise and investigative writer in Jan. 2021. She has covered the healthcare industry in NYC, life sciences and the business of law, among other areas.