Physician ethics of care examined as COVID-19 pandemic continues

“To me, it feels like we’re heavily relying on the CDC telling people to get vaccinated versus letting the physicians”
Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 6:30 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Videos showing physicians spread what some deem “misinformation” has run rampant on social media, but are doctors required to follow federal entities such as the CDC when it comes to giving medical advice?

“To me, it feels like we’re heavily relying on the CDC telling people to get vaccinated versus letting the physicians. That’s where the trust is. If you want to keep skepticism from getting in the way of people getting vaccinated, put it in the hands of the physicians, not government entities.”

That’s what Dr. Dustin Worth, D.O. said regarding the advising of medical information and recommendations throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Worth is the Clinical Medicine Coordinator for the University of Idaho branch of the WWAMI Medical School Program — a regional education program run through the University of Washington.

Worth says politics aside, skepticism is key to the scientific process.

“Science is a pursuit for the truth, and it works best when there is healthy dialogue back and forth on the issues that are uncertain,” said Worth.

Therein lies the dilemma. Should doctors be able to give their own opinions despite federal guidelines?

Jeff Seegmiller, Ed. D. is the Director of the WWAMI Medical Education Program, with whom he trains physicians. He said it’s important to remember doctors are humans and a variety of factors can impact their beliefs.

“You get social media and politics into it and for some individuals, the skepticism factor increases,” said Seegmiller. “Then you bring Big Pharma into it and skepticism increases for some individuals, so it’s not surprising that you would have clinicians out there promoting a different viewpoint.”

Seegmiller additionally cited the opioid crisis and the role of some major pharmaceutical companies in disseminating what he terms “bad information,” as one of many reasons why some doctors may be hesitant to trust during what is a time of great uncertainty.

“They [doctors] were told that it wasn’t addictive, so there was not good information that was given, and then it was promoted,” said Seegmiller.

Seegmiller said typically experts within health professions decide on a standard of care, and it’s that standard that is the measuring stick by which a practice is deemed ethical or not.

“Practicing outside of that [standard of care] there might be some flexibility,” said Seegmiller. “The extent to which you’re going to promote something that goes maybe against the standard of care then they [can] become subject to an investigation on violation of ethics.”

While the controversy may continue, it may be the ability to hear each other that brings about better practices.

“I love this profession. It’s an honor to care for patients,” said Worth. “It’s heartbreaking to see a medical issue that historically would bring a country together actually divide a country. It’s really sad.”

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