COVID-19 conspiracy theorists frustrating physicians

Dealing with COVID-19 pandemic conspiracy theorists, online and in their hospitals, is taking a toll on physicians, NBC News reports.

Several physicians shared their experiences of interacting with conspiracy theorists, who believe that the coronavirus pandemic is not real.

Hadi Halazun, MD, a cardiologist based in New York City, spoke about trying to engage with a person on Facebook, who was posting about how the pandemic is "fake news." Dr. Halazun tried to reason with him and other users who jumped into the conversation asking him to prove he was a real physician.

"I told them: 'I am a real doctor. There are 200 people in my hospital's ICU,'" he told NBC News. "And they said, 'Give me your credentials.' I engaged with them, and they kicked me off their wall."

Other physicians told NBC News how they have often had to treat patients who came to the hospital later than they should have because of conspiracy theories on social media. Duncan Maru, MD, a physician and epidemiologist at a New York City hospital, shared with NBC that colleagues told him about a patient who came into the emergency room after ingesting bleach.

Dr. Maru said technology and social media companies should be responsible for keeping misinformation and conspiracy theories in check.

"I do think it's a monumental task to hold these companies to account, but in the COVID case, they truly have blood on their hands," he told NBC.

But there is no easy solution to the problem, as misinformation campaigns have grown, and in some cases, become more organized.

"With conspiracy theories, the reason they're impervious to fact-checking is that they have become a way of being in the world for believers," Whitney Phillips, PhD, an assistant professor of communications at Syracuse (N.Y.) University said, according to NBC.

For now, Dr. Halazun said he believes it may be best for physicians to get off Facebook and stop engaging with conspiracy theorists online.

"We're limited in our emotional capacity. I'm not going to spend whatever I have left after a long day of work trying to convince a conspiracy theorist," he told NBC News.

More articles on integration and physician issues:
Novant Health launches COVID-19 physician burnout task force
New Jersey to allow physicians with foreign licenses to practice during pandemic
NYU Langone residents, leaders butt heads over hazard pay request

 

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