State medical board takes testimony as dozens demand accountability over COVID-19 misinformation

Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 10:55 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - While the Alaska State Medical Board gathering on Friday for its quarterly meeting was hardly an unusual occurrence, a major focus of the virtual forum was on COVID-19, misinformation surrounding the virus, and alternative treatment practices, all of which drew intense testimony from dozens of members of the public.

According to the board, hundreds of letters were received by members regarding COVID-19 treatment standards and practices, triggering a response from the body ahead of the meeting.

The board said, in order to help clarify processes and expectations surrounding board investigations, people should know that licensing boards may only act on violations of state statue and regulations. Additionally, details of investigations are not made public until after those investigations.

The board’s process for investigating complaints is posted online and included in an agenda of Friday’s meeting.

Still, many residents testified Friday both against and in favor of “alternative” treatments – or those outside of standard care procedures – for COVID-19. Some were in favor of being allowed to seek methods not traditionally offered in local hospitals, like using ivermectin, while others vehemently pushed back. Ivermectin and other “alternative” treatments like hydroxychloroquine are not proven treatments for COVID-19, and while they are approved for other medical uses, the FDA has warned against using them specifically to treat COVID-19.

“My fear is the board will start punishing doctors who listen to alternative treatment requests,” said one testifier, taking listeners through the experience his wife has had as she tries to recover from a bout with COVID-19. “It is clear to the public that the standard of care for the ICU patients is a dismal failure. Families much have choices in the treatment of their loved ones.”

On the other end of the spectrum, some speakers demanded accountability of Alaska medical professionals who they feel are not following their oaths to protect patients.

“I’m here to ask the medical board to do a simple thing: stop a handful of irresponsible Alaska doctors from spreading dangerous misinformation in the guise of medical fact,” said resident Pat Dougherty. “during a pandemic that has killed more than 800 Alaskans.”

One woman stuck primarily to questions for providers who appear to be flouting care standards.

“Why would any doctor that has taken an oath to help people ignore science and perpetuate such flagrant misinformation?” she asked. “And why would any hospital create policies that they have to know go against science?”

Still, many of the testifiers said they’d had good experiences with physicians who have sought to use alternative — though not necessarily federally approved or widely proven — methods for treatment of certain illnesses.

“These doctors, alternative care doctors, go outside the box,” said one of Friday’s testifiers Friday. “They continually have to get educated, and learn new things, and try new treatments for patients’ needs.”

The division is encouraging anyone with complaints about medical practice to report allegations in as much detail as possible on its website.

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