Why a Doctor Threatens to Withhold Coronavirus Treatments From Local Politicians and Their Families

Posted: Apr 11, 2020 3:15 PM
Why a Doctor Threatens to Withhold Coronavirus Treatments From Local Politicians and Their Families

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Idaho State Rep. Heather Scott (R) and Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler have been outspoken advocates of reopening the Gem State, particularly in the northern part of the state where the number of Wuhan coronavirus infections is relatively low. The majority of Idaho's infections are roughly eight hours away in the state capital of Boise and its suburbs.

Both Scott and Wheeler have called on Gov. Brad Little (R) to recall the Idaho State Legislature to talk about reopening the economy. Because they have encouraged residents to push back, a doctor at Kootenai Health, the area's largest hospital, believes that the politicians, along with their families, should not receive adequate treatment should they come down with the Wuhan coronavirus.

In an opinion piece directed at Scott, Dr. Robert Burnett makes clear he would want medical equipment, like ventilators, to go to others (emphasis mine):

Because you believe that the stay-at-home order is unlawful (which it is not, under state of emergency), and more importantly, have used your public office to encourage others to violate the order, you have put law-abiding citizens, and health care workers at increased risk of infection, hospitalization and death.

As such, your punch has reached my face. It is criminal that you would use your public office to threaten the health of your constituents and your local and regional health care workers. Similar to Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler, the entire medical staff at Kootenai Health is aware of this reckless behavior.

I realize that the pandemic is not much of a concern to those uneducated people who believe this threat is a “hoax” or “overblown,” but I want you to know that in the unlikely but possible event that either you or Sheriff Wheeler contract the coronavirus, and in the less likely event that you will require hospitalization, and even less likely but possible event that you would require a ventilator, that I, and all of my co-workers take comfort in knowing that, because of your behavior, you have essentially relinquished your claim to any of these potentially scarce resources. It’s probably for the better that a ventilator go to a health care provider anyway.

Sheriff Wheeler responded in his own letter to the editor, saying he would make sure Dr. Burnett received the same exact treatment as any other citizen in his jurisdiction (emphasis mine): 

If I, or any of my family acquired an illness a year from now, would you ‘do no harm’ to us? Why should anyone ever trust their health to someone who arbitrarily determines the application of the quality of medical treatment based upon a difference of personal opinion on your part?


Dr. Burnett, we’re both first responders, and as such in facing the dangers of the unseen, we selflessly take that challenge for the sake and safety of those we respectively serve in our given professions. As a personal pledge to you, you will receive the same quality of service as any other citizen of Bonner County. I will be honored to serve you today, as I was my very first day in office.

Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath to "do no harm" to others. They're supposed to take care of any and every patient to the best of their ability. There is no asterisk next to that line in the oath. There are no exceptions. Scott and Wheeler are free to have their own opinions and advocate for them without a health care provider refusing to treat them or their families should they happen to contract the Wuhan coronavirus. 

We're in the middle of a pandemic. The last thing any American should have to worry about is whether or not their doctors and nurses agree with their political opinions.

Shame on you, Dr. Burnett.