Viewpoint: Many unvaccinated, critical COVID-19 patients still distrust those caring for them

Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, some unvaccinated patients, even those who become critically ill, still deny the virus is behind their deterioration and vehemently distrust the physicians caring for them, a critical care physician said in an op-ed published Jan. 20 in The Los Angeles Times. 

"Among patients who disbelieve the experts about COVID-19, there is a familiar pattern. They get sick. They end up in the hospital with severe COVID-19 illness. They initially demonstrate a nonplussed defiance, which morphs into utter helplessness when they progressively worsen," wrote Venktesh Ramnath, MD, medical director of critical care and telemedicine outreach at UC San Diego Health. 

Dr. Ramnath described a situation in which the family of an unvaccinated COVID-19 patient — who was critically ill and had respiratory failure — "hectored with incessant questions about test results, accusations of mistreatment and demands for therapies like vitamins, ivermectin and sedatives," and repeatedly warned him "not to lie," dismissing his medical recommendations. 

Such situations are all too common, the physician wrote. 

"Far from 'heroes' or even compassionate advocates for health, providers are viewed as biased technicians with dubious motives locking loved ones behind hospital doors," he said.

The tense landscape has pushed some medical professionals to break traditional practice norms. 

"Providers are resorting to less evidence-based practices, desperate to help and also avoid another conflict. By opening the door to 'trying everything,' they have become unwitting supporters of anti-science movements, placing additional stress on others who promote well-established, proven practices," Dr. Ramnath said. 

For others, a rise in this type of "emotional onslaught" has been the breaking point that led them to leave their jobs, Dr. Ramnath said. 

To read the full piece, click here.


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