More than 150 MDs are challenging the authority of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) after it issued a statement threatening to sanction members for speaking out against COVID-19 public health orders.
The doctors signed the Declaration of Canadian Physicians for Science and Truth in opposition to the college’s move, stating that their “primary duty of care is not to the CPSO or any other authority, but to our patients.”
“We’re a group of doctors who are very concerned about this college statement and policy that we really feel is putting patients’ safety at risk and is undermining basic medical ethics that we’ve been following throughout all of our careers,” Dr. Patrick Phillips, spokesperson for the declaration, said in an interview.
The college’s statement, issued to members on April 30 via email and on Twitter, warned that physicians “have a professional responsibility to not communicate anti-vaccine, anti-masking, anti-distancing, and anti-lockdown statements.”
“The College is aware and concerned about the increase of misinformation circulating on social media and other platforms regarding physicians who are publicly contradicting public health orders and recommendations. … Physicians who put the public at risk may face an investigation by the CPSO and disciplinary action, when warranted.”
Ten days later, and after the declaration signed by the MDs was released, college CEO Dr. Nancy Whitmore sent a clarification to members about the original statement.
“The recent College statement was intended to address communications from a small group of physicians spreading blatant misinformation and putting the public at risk,” she wrote in the May 10 email. “It is not intended to stifle physicians from engaging in a healthy public debate about other measures aimed at addressing public safety during the pandemic.”
Phillips says he is currently the subject of a CPSO probe, predating the college’s April 30 statement, for appearing in a video titled “Canadian Doctors Speak Out,” in which he and other colleagues discuss the efficacy of various COVID measures—such as masks, social distancing, school cancellations—as well as ways to bolster the immune system.
“The college is investigating me for basically speaking out on some of these issues, specifically on how asymptomatic transmission’s been overstated by the media,” he said. “That came out in a published paper through [the Journal of the American Medical Association] … showing that household transmission through asymptomatic spread is very small.”
Phillips practises family medicine in Englehart, Ont. He also works emergency ward shifts at hospitals around the region and says he witnesses the fallout from public health orders that have closed schools and shut down organized sports and other youth activities.
“I’m seeing in the emergency department [that] when parents or their children are suicidal, they come in seeking care,” he said. “The worst of it is from the ages of 8 to 25, I’m noticing a big uptick in suicidal tendencies. I also see people after suicide attempts. Honestly, it is heartbreaking.”
Dr. Adrienne Junek, an integrative medicine physician who practices in Ottawa, signed the declaration after the CPSO’s missive.
“I felt like they wanted to censor us, that there was no space for an open, healthy debate about the benefits and risks of lockdowns, or the benefits and risks of our vaccines, which have not been in use for more than a year and so long-term effects are still unknown,” she told The Epoch Times.
But Junek said Whitmore’s May 10 email clarification put her at ease, as it mentions a small group, “more the outliers the college might want to target.”
“Although, trying to step back from the whole situation, I think it would be nice if we can engage both sides of the debate to talk about whether or not what we’re doing is right, and if there’s something that we could be doing that would be better than what we’re doing now.”
Phillips said that the declaration, which has garnered thousands of supportive signatures from the general public, put college CEO Whitmore “on the defensive.” But he said he’s concerned about her email clarification “because they make it very clear that they’re actually targeting a specific group of physicians.”
A request for an interview with Whitmore was declined, but in an email the college offered more specifics on whom it is targeting.
“Where the College has expressed concerns is in physicians actively encouraging the public to violate public health directives; either misstating or misrepresenting scientific data; or providing such data without the necessary context. This would be a matter of concern regardless of what medical condition or health issue is in focus,” the email said.
Phillips says he fears the CPSO is denying the scientific method by discouraging debate about public health orders and violating both evidence-based medicine and “the sacred duty of informed consent.”
“We’re not saying that we’re against vaccines, or even necessarily against lockdowns. What we’re speaking about is the freedom to discuss and vigorously debate both the positive and negative sides of any intervention,” he said.
“Our statement is a pledge to our patients that we’re putting them first, we’re putting scientific truth before our duty to any kind of college. And so we’re willing to take these risks, to put ourselves out there in order to stand true to our oath.”
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