The Florida Department of Health rejected a complaint alleging that Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo violated state medical laws by publicly casting doubts about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and promoting unproven treatments against the disease.
“We have determined from our review that we can take no further action because the healthcare provider has not violated any laws or rules regulating this profession,” Investigation Manager Anthony Jusevitch told Dr. Howard Goldman in a letter dated Nov. 22.
Goldman, a Delray Beach eye doctor, filed a complaint Oct. 29 claiming that Ladapo, also head of the Department of Health, made public pronouncements about COVID-19 that he knew to be false.
“What he did may not be a violation of specific laws, but in my opinion (it) is a violation of medical ethics,” he said. “My point was not that he broke any laws, only that he was spreading medical misinformation based on current medical/scientific knowledge and requested that he be censured for this, not arrested.”
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Several nationwide organizations, including one that has certified Ladapo in internal medicine, have come down hard in recent months on health care practitioners who spread misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine or promote unproven alternative treatments like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.
The DOH would not confirm or deny if a complaint against Ladapo even existed: “If the Department receives a complaint and does not find sufficient information (probable cause) to further investigate the complaint, then the complaint would never be public record,” DOH spokeswoman Weesam Khoury said in an email.
Probable cause in this context means it is more likely than not that someone violated state law governing the practice of medicine.
Christina Pushaw, the press secretary for Gov. Ron DeSantis, said the only possible motive for filing a complaint questioning Ladapo’s medical competence would be political.
“It’s regrettable that Dr. Ladapo has faced an onslaught of unfair personal attacks from the day his appointment was announced,” Pushaw said.
Ladapo “is using his bully pulpit to spread doubt about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, promoting the use of unproven and possibly dangerous medications like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin,” Goldman said.
Because of those statements by Ladapo, Goldman added, people have been reluctant to seek appropriate care and treatment for COVID-19.
Since he was appointed surgeon general on Sept. 21, Ladapo has said the COVID-19 vaccine is not as effective or as safe as the mainstream medical community and media make it out to be, and that media outlets are not reporting the real number of breakthrough cases among those who have been vaccinated.
He also refused to wear a mask when asked by a state senator who informed him she was being treated for a serious medical condition, saying he couldn’t communicate effectively with a mask over his mouth.
Over a year ago, Ladapo stood on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., with a group of physicians calling themselves America’s Frontline Doctors.
The group’s members have made millions selling hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug also used for some autoimmune diseases, and ivermectin, an anti-parasitic, to patients as a treatment against COVID, as reported by The Intercept, Time magazine and other media outlets. Those reports prompted a congressional investigation.
Neither drug has been approved for use by the FDA against infection from COVID, and tests have proven hydroxychloroquine to have no therapeutic benefits against the disease, as USA TODAY and other outlets have reported.
The Federation of State Medical Boards issued a statement warning that doctors who spread COVID-19 misinformation should face disciplinary action by their state medical boards.
They “possess a high degree of public trust and have a powerful platform in society,” the FSMB said, and have an ethical responsibility to share factual, scientifically accurate and consensus-driven information.
“Spreading inaccurate COVID-19 vaccine information contradicts that responsibility, threatens to further erode public trust in the medical profession and puts all patients at risk,” the FSMB added.
Moreover, a joint statement by the American Board of Family Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine and American Board of Pediatrics warned that such unethical and unprofessional conduct could put their board certification at risk, too.
Ladapo is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.
Jeffrey Schweers is a capital bureau reporter for USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida. Contact Schweers at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @jeffschweers.
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