By Doug Gerard, guest columnist
I’m deeply disturbed about a proclamation made in March By the Wyoming Board of Medicine.
I’m dismayed Governor Gordon, or his Attorney General for that matter, haven’t acted to correct the Wyoming Board of Medicine’s blatant overreach. After all, Governor Gordon swore in his oath of office to support, defend, and “obey” the Constitutions of the United States and Wyoming.
To put things in perspective, let’s start with the Wyoming Constitution and what it says about you and your health care:
ARTICLE 2 Sec. 38. Right of health care access.
(a) Each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions. The parent, guardian or legal representative of any other natural person shall have the right to make health care decisions for that person.
(b) Any person may pay, and a health care provider may accept, direct payment for health care without imposition of penalties or fines for doing so.
(c) The legislature may determine reasonable and necessary restrictions on the rights granted under this section to protect the health and general welfare of the people or to accomplish the other purposes set forth in the Wyoming Constitution.
(d) The state of Wyoming shall act to preserve these rights from undue governmental infringement.
Pretty straight forward, right?
It says that you have the right to make the health care decisions you want and that the legislature may place limits on barbaric practices that try to find cover under the aegis of healthcare (e.g., abortion). Most importantly, the state is charged with ensuring that our right to the healthcare we want is protected.
This part of the Wyoming Constitution is quite dear to me. Way back in 2008, I started work to make Wyoming’s Healthcare Freedom Amendment a reality. After many twists and turns, the amendment finally made it through the legislature in the 2011 General Session. In 2012 voters had their say, and it passed overwhelmingly, with 77% of Wyoming voters for the measure.
The day after the election, I got an email from then-Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau, reading, “Congratulations, you’re the grandfather of a constitutional amendment.” It is the best email I ever received, three years of work paid off.
Now fast forward to March 2020, the age of COVID and the hydroxychloroquine controversy.
From my layman’s perspective, the science of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine effectiveness is muddled. While some studies and anecdotal evidence say the malaria drugs help, others say the drugs are ineffective. The scientific consensus is that, in general, the medications don’t provide any benefit for the treatment of COVID-19. With that said there remain a number of outspoken physicians that say the drugs help, and they proscribe them for their patients.
In March of 2020, the Wyoming Board of Medicine decided it knows what’s best for you and your healthcare. The Board issued a proclamation saying it will aggressively pursue and discipline any healthcare professional operating outside the ever-changing “standard of care.” The declaration explicitly threatens those that would or have prescribed chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in response to COVID-19.
This is unconstitutional. ARTICLE 2 Sec. 38 of the Wyoming Constitution is clear. You and your doctor get to decide the healthcare you want and receive, subject to the limitations set by the legislature. If you and your physician agree a medication, procedure, or other treatment would be of benefit to you, you have the right to that treatment.
Where is Governor Gordon? Where is the Attorney General? They are two of the top officials in the state. The Wyoming Constitution requires them to protect our right to health care we decide we need. Why have they let this stand?
I recognize that the Board of Medicine plays a vital role in ensuring Wyoming doctors have the proper training to earn and keep a license. The Board of Medicine is also there when things go wrong. The Board is responsible for adjudicating complaints against physicians, potentially ending their career and life’s work with revocation of their license to practice.
That said, the Board of Medicine doesn’t have the right to tell my dually licensed physician and me what healthcare I can and cannot have. This is especially true when the patient and doctor agree on treatment that is non-standard. The only institution that may place restrictions on my healthcare is the Wyoming State Legislature. It’s right there in the Wyoming Constitution.
Jump to July 2020; I get COVID. It’s personal now!
In eight days, I lost thirty pounds, was in zombie mode sleeping 20 hours days. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink enough fluids. Eventually, I ended up in the emergency room. In the ER, I received IV fluids and a prescription for a course of high dose steroids.
I was convinced that I was on a downward spiral and was concerned I might have an extended severe bout with COVID. I am confident the steroids stopped the disease progression in its tracks and put me on the road to recovery.
Just two days before my ER visit, a study was released indicating high dose steroids effectively treat COVID. Before that, steroids for COVID treatment were thought to be ineffective and potentially harmful.
It got me thinking: What if that study never happened? What if something delayed the research? How would this have affected me? Would I have gotten the steroids prescribed? Would I have recovered?
Given the Board of Medicine stance on COVID treatment, I can’t help but ask if that study hadn’t come out, would my physician have risked his license to prescribe steroids for me?
According to a physician I trust, the steroids were the medically logical action to take, even without the study to back it up. Even so, given the threat against physicians’ livelihood from the Board of Medicine, would a physician take the risk and act outside the ever-changing “standard of care” on COVID treatment?
From my view and experience, the March decree of the Board of Medicine is patently unconstitutional and, without doubt, hindering Wyoming residents’ healthcare.
The State of Wyoming, led by Governor Gordon with his Attorney General’s aid, need to step up and reverse the Board of Medicine’s unconstitutional action,