Board Suspends Licenses Of 2 Physicians: Vaccine Skeptic And Mask Opponent
As Oregon COVID-19 cases and deaths mount, the state’s medical board has suspended two physicians: One has actively opposed masks to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus; the other is a long-time opponent to the traditional course of childhood vaccines.
The board has taken more than 200 actions so far this year, including sanctions for negligence, unprofessional conduct, prescribing controlled substances and other issues. And two other physicians have been suspended. But these are the first emergency suspension orders.
They come as the state gears up for the first distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and are directed against two physicians who have taken public stances against widely accepted standards of care to prevent a potentially deadly infectious disease.
The board ordered Dr. Steven LaTulippe to stop practicing medicine immediately for refusing to wear masks and telling patients entering his South View Medical Arts clinic in Dallas, Oregon to take them off. It suspended the license of Dr. Paul Thomas, a Portland pediatrician, for refusing to follow the standard of care related to childhood vaccinations, citing the cases of eight children, including some who were hospitalized, who contracted pertussis or whooping cough, tetanus and rotavirus gastroenteritis.
LaTulippe has closed his clinic and could not be reached for comment. Thomas did not respond to a request for comment. Officials from the Oregon Medical Board issued no comment beyond its orders.
The order said LaTulippe encouraged potential exposure to the novel coronavirus, saying exposure would bolster the immune system, and advised patients that wearing masks would be harmful because they would breathe in carbon dioxide trapped in the mask. The order rebutted these two theories, saying not wearing a mask risks spreading the virus and that any carbon dioxide re-breathed was trivial.
LaTulippe appeared in a YouTube video in November that was taken during the pro-Trump Stop the Steal post-election rally in Salem. Addressing a maskless group of people holding crucifixes and waving Trump and U.S. flags, LaTulippe told them to “take off the mask of shame that is just designed to control you and shut you down.”
The order said his “active discouragement of mask wearing” represents a failure to prevent the spread of the virus among patients, staff and the extended community.
The order pointed out that patients in the area were assigned to the clinic by the Oregon Health Authority under the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s Medicaid program, and that they often had no other options for treatment. It cited one patient on Medicaid who consulted with the clinic about getting tested for COVID-19. The patient was told that asymptomatic people should not be tested, that wearing a mask does not prevent COVID-19 and that patients should not self-isolate because exposure to the virus would provide immunity, the order said.
The order against Thomas, who ran a clinic in Beaverton, cited the cases of eight patients who were allegedly harmed by his opposition to the standard schedule for vaccines recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This schedule has been relied upon for many years, is updated periodically and is widely accepted as authoritative in the medical community,” the order said.
Thomas has promoted his own views about vaccines in a book called “The Vaccine Friendly Plan” that recommends decreasing the frequency of many vaccines and omitting others.
The order said his assertions that his schedule would prevent or decrease the incidence of autism amounted to fraud.
Research linking autism to the measles vaccine has been refuted by the CDC and other research, including a study of more than 650,000 children in Denmark that was published in 2019.
Nevertheless, Thomas has been unwavering in his views.
The order cited two instances of pertussis in unvaccinated childrenwho were in Thomas’ care, the use of colloidal silver to treat one child for a deep scalp laceration who had not been immunized against tetanus who ended up spending two months in intensive care after contracting tetanus; and three children in his care who were not vaccinated for rotavirus who contracted the disease and had to be treated in the hospital.
The order said that the board had “determined from the evidence available at this time that (Thomas’) continued practice of medicine would pose an immediate danger to the public and his patients.
Thomas, considered to be a guru by vaccine skeptics in Oregon, has publicly promoted his views, for example, by hosting vaccine summits https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0FLICtQD_A and in 2019 by rallying in Salem against a legislative proposal that would have eliminated the personal exemption option allowing parents to skip required vaccines for their children. The bill didn’t pass amid a controversy over climate change and a walkout by Republican lawmakers.
The suspensions will remain in effect indefinitely but the two physicians can contest them by requesting hearing in writing.
Dec 7 2020