The Problems With Censoring Doctors Over Their COVID-19 Stances, by Buzz Hollander, MD

Any time you silence bright, knowledgeable people you lose. Even when they’re wrong, they make everyone else see things in new ways, and prompt new thinking about the problems being addressed. From Buzz Hollander, MD, at

The Problems With Censoring Doctors Over Their COVID-19 Stances

(AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Everyone has a right to their opinion. The question is: does everyone have a right to voice their opinion? Increasingly, in these strange times, it seems that we physicians have the right to voice only certain opinions, when it comes to discussing Covid-19.

Wanting to hit the mute button on physicians who choose to challenge the public health narrative, especially in regard to vaccination for Covid-19, is understandably tempting. We carry a bit more authority than lawyers or statisticians when we share our thoughts about medical matters; and quite a few physicians seem to have little interest in toeing the party line. However, appealing as it might be to silence these voices, succumbing to the temptation of censorship might end up costing our society more than it gains.

Three Stories

Imagine this: you’re a physician in charge of opening an intensive care unit in New York City for Covid-19 patients in March 2020 as the disease is tearing through the city. You notice that the standard protocols your hospital follows for intubated patients seem to be failing, perhaps injuring, your patients with Covid-19. Rumblings from Chinese intensivists, and publications from Italian physician Luciano Gattitoni, imply that intubation and ventilator management should be reconsidered in this new disease. Your hospital is reluctant to change their well-established protocols. Most of your intubated patients are dying. What do you do?

Dr Cameron Kyle-Sidell experienced this dilemma — and then posted a video on YouTube on March 31, 2020, watched nearly a million times, in which he described his experiences caring for Covid-19 patients in respiratory failure. In the video, Kyle-Sidell shared that existing treatment protocols for patients with severe pneumonia did not seem to apply to Covid-19 patients with dangerously low oxygen levels — they could be intubated later, and their lungs were less stiff and required lower ventilation pressures, than typical severe pneumonia patients. His warning was part of an alarm that was raised by others, as well, which did indeed lead to a rapid shift in management of severely ill Covid-19 patients. He also ended up stepping down from his leadership of the ICU due to disagreement with hospital management; and some of those hundreds of thousands of viewers of his YouTube video concluded that his perhaps poorly-worded comparison of Covid-19 lung disease to high altitude sickness was cause to consider the pandemic a hoax.

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