Physician organizations push back following president’s statements at Wisconsin rally

The American College of Physicians (ACP) fired back at President Donald Trump after he claimed that doctors have been overreporting Covid-19 deaths for financial gain, an accusation which the ACP called a “reprehensible attack on physicians’ ethics and professionalism.”

At a Saturday rally, the president called Covid-19 fatality reporting in the U.S. “a little bit backwards,” arguing that hospitals are reporting deaths as Covid-19–related when they are actually caused by pre-existing or underlying conditions, as reported by Newsweek.

“You know some countries they report differently,” the president said. “If somebody’s sick with a heart problem, and they die of Covid they say they die of a heart problem. If somebody’s terminally ill with cancer and they have Covid, we report them. And you know doctors get more money and hospitals get more money. Think of this incentive.” This is not the first time the president has suggested that U.S. Covid-19 reporting is inaccurate—the White House made similar claims back in May, implying that the growing number of Covid-19 cases was being inflated for political purposes.

“Internists and other frontline physicians play an essential role in caring for patients and saving lives during this global public health emergency, often without sufficient personal protective equipment and while putting their own lives at risk,” Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP, ACP President, wrote in a statement. “To suggest that physicians would misstate the cause of death for financial gain is false, and represents a reprehensible attack on our profession and ethics.”

The ACP pointed out that recent studies suggest that the actual number of Covid-19 deaths is actually much higher, not lower, than the over 225,000 deaths officially attributed to the coronavirus. “Alleging that Covid-19 deaths instead are overcounted undermines the work by physicians and public health authorities to remind the public of the seriousness of the pandemic and to recommend steps to reduce transmission of the virus, cases, and deaths,” the ACP wrote.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) also reubutted the president’s statements, writing that the organization “is appalled by President Trump’s reckless and false assertions that physicians are overcounting deaths related to Covid-19. Emergency physicians and other health care workers have risked their lives day in and day out for almost a year battling the greatest public health crisis in a generation—all while watching countless patients die alone, going to work without sufficient protection equipment, and struggling with crushing anxiety about getting sick or spreading the virus to their loved ones.”

The American Medical Association (AMA) echoed this sentiment in a Twitter post, writing “Let’s be clear, physicians are not inflating the number of Covid-19 patients… Physicians and patients are making remarkable sacrifices and we continue urging all to wear a mask, physical distance, and wash your hands to reduce suffering, illness, and death.”

John McKenna, Associate Editor, BreakingMED™

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