Opinion | When Doctors Go Off Script on Covid

To the Editor:

Re “Do More to Stop Dangerous Doctors” (Op-Ed, Dec. 14):

I applaud Dr. Richard A. Friedman for calling out physicians who are guilty of providing misinformation to the public concerning the Covid pandemic, including playing down the importance of mask wearing and social distancing.

I agree with him completely that as physicians, they must be held to a much higher standard, since as authority figures they are listened to by the general public. As a doctor myself, I have been embarrassed and angry at their behavior during this difficult time for our country.

Lawrence S. Schechter
Water Mill, N.Y.
The writer is a retired radiologist.

To the Editor:

What are the criteria for determining which of our colleagues are dangerous and which are not?

Floating an idea that does not conform to the prevalent majority opinion could very easily be suppressed, yet unconventional ideas have advanced medicine over and over again. Without them, we would still be stuck with medieval bloodletting as the primary remedy for everything.

Very clearly, there were things we could have done better from the get-go with this pandemic. Some of us suggested such solutions, only to see our suggestions failing to get traction.

While it is easy to classify wacky ideas like those parroted by Dr. Scott Atlas, President Trump’s former special adviser on the coronavirus, as dangerous (they are), who is supposed to make the decision of suppressing them? Who is to say that the next idea that is suppressed is not the one that could have saved millions of lives, simply because it is viewed as outside the mainstream?

Ideas need to be voiced, vigorously discussed and then decided upon.

Our lives depend on enhancing our collective wisdom, not suppressing those who have original ideas that may seem outlandish at the moment.

Joachim Herz
The writer is a physician-scientist specializing in neuroscience and genetics.

To the Editor:

Dr. Richard A. Friedman’s admonition to his fellow physicians to denounce those among them who promote quack medical advice is absolutely right. He takes Stanford University (my alma mater) to task for failing to disassociate itself from Dr. Scott Atlas, a former Stanford radiologist who was President Trump’s special adviser on the coronavirus. But not all of Stanford remained silent.

On Sept. 16, in an open letter published in The Stanford Daily, 98 members of the Stanford Medical School accused Dr. Atlas of “falsehoods and misrepresentations,” claiming that “many of his opinions and statements run counter to established science.” In November, 85 percent of the members of the Faculty Senate voted in favor of a resolution to condemn Dr. Atlas.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the newly installed director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford, publicly condemned and disavowed Dr. Atlas’s views.

Dr. Atlas is no longer a member of the Stanford Medical School faculty, but he remains a senior fellow at Hoover. Dismissing him would inevitably raise issues of academic freedom.

Robin Kennedy
Menlo Park, Calif.

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