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COVID-19 and the Myth of the Independent Physician

The pandemic has highlighted tensions between frontline doctors and the medical institutions that determine policies and guidelines.

Are medical doctors and critical care experts able to have an open discussion about treatment strategies?

The answer should be obvious, but it isn't, says Dr. Thomas Yadegar, Medical Director of the ICU at Providence Tarzana Medical Center. “In the medical profession, we've lost the ability to to talk to one another and hear [other opinions]. There's a hierarchical approach to medicine where [directives] are handed down from professors in our institutions of higher learning, the NIH, and the CDC.”

For example, during the initial stages of the pandemic, it was considered "best practices" to put COVID patients on ventilators. Dr. Yadegar continues. “We were told not to give steroids to patients. We were told to put them on ventilators early and not to put them on noninvasive ventilation. And all these things were, over time, proven to be absolutely the wrong things to do. And there wasn't a way to get the message out as quickly as we needed to.”

Frontline medical staff see and treat patients every day. Do M.D.s really need to wait for directives from the CDC or the WHO to provide emergency treatment for dying patients?

“If we are not in a society where we can have free dialogue, we have failed. And that also goes for the medical community,” says Dr. Arman Dorian, Chief Medical Officer for Verdugo Hills Hospital of USC.