The recent actions and statements by U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, as reported, go beyond accepted standards of care and scope of practice for a physician. These warrant investigation by the Maryland Board of Physicians (”Rep. Andy Harris, an anesthesiologist, says complaint was filed against him for prescribing ivermectin to treat COVID-19,” Nov. 16).
Investigation is needed as it’s not clear that there were any mitigating circumstances in the instances where he prescribed ivermectin to a patient. At its face, his acknowledgment of this seems to be without having a therapeutic relationship with the patient, conducting a history or physical exam or keeping a medical record. These are all significant components of medical practice and are art of licensure regulations.
Prescriptions are not expressions of “free speech.” Speech may be casual, prescription of medication may not be. The aspect of ivermectin’s non-approved status for use against COVID-19 (known as off-label use) is moot because the prescription was, at first, nonprofessional.
Similarly, investigation is needed for Dr. Harris’s public statements on COVID-19, particularly statements and medical advice that may be alternative to what persons trained in public health have advised. Why? As an anesthesiologist, Dr. Harris has no-to-little training in infectious diseases, epidemiology or the practices of public health. His statements may be within the scope of a politician, but for a physician, they represent medical practice beyond his specialization, experience or training. Physicians have a duty to keep medical advice within their scope of practice and expertise.
Bad, misleading or incomplete medical and public health information, particularly when provided to the public (because he also holds public office), has negative and measurable outcomes in the manner of a surgeon who drinks before a procedure, a physician who trades drugs for sex, or a doctor who completes procedures that he or she has little training to complete.
Clearly, Dr. Harris should be advised by the medical board of his responsibilities.
Dolph Druckman, MD, MPH, Baltimore
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