Minn doctor/state senator ‘stunned’ to get disturbing news from medical board after challenging covid numbers

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A Minnesota state senator and practicing physician warned that “no one’s immune to attacks” in a video message revealing he is under investigation.

Sen. Scott Jensen is sure he is being politically targeted though he is not sure who filed a complaint that triggered the investigation by the state medical board into comments he made as a doctor that were critical of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is one of the most important videos I’ve made, and one of the hardest,” the Republican lawmaker said in a two-part video posted on Twitter Monday.

He revealed that two separate complaints were made to the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice alleging that he was spreading misinformation about the coronavirus and giving “reckless advice” when he compared it to the flu.

Though the board declined to confirm to the Star Tribune that there were any complaints, Jensen supplied the outlet with a portion of the board’s letter:

“The Board has received complaints regarding public messages you made related to COVID-19. In accordance with Minnesota law, the Board is required to make inquiries into all complaints and reports wherein violations of the Medical Practice Act are alleged.”

 

“If this could happen to me, my view is that this could happen to anybody,” Jensen said, acknowledging how upset he was to receive the notification.

“A couple of people complained and I don’t get to know who those people are,” he said, noting that he has been a family doctor for four decades, serves in the state Senate and was even named Minnesota’s Family Doctor of the Year.

Though Jensen noted he was “stunned” by the investigation, he “should have seen it coming” after the “threats on social media.”

At issue, apparently, were comparisons Jensen made of the COVID-19 death toll to that in influenza cases as well as his contention that there could be a financial incentive for some doctors to overcount cases of the virus in order to affect the allocation of federal funds.

“I saw the threats on social media, I’ve seen them for the last two or three months,” Jensen said in the video message.

“I’ve seen them come from physicians. I’ve seen them come from people in all walks of life. They didn’t agree with me. They didn’t like it that I was trying to provide some context for the flu, for COVID-19,” he said. “We’ve had some 35-40,000 cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota thus far. According to the Department of Health people, that might translate to ten times that many and if it does that’s 350,000 cases. But in 2018 we have more than half a million Minnesotans with the flu.”

Jensen contended that other experts, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have made similar comparisons between the coronavirus and the flu. He also pointed out how the Department of Health had to issue clarifications on reporting causes of death after he noted discrepancies during an interview.

Critics of Jensen’s comments, like Art Caplan, director of medical ethics at New York University’s school of medicine, said the senator’s position of influence as a doctor in the Legislature should set a caution over his remarks.

“Don’t let your politics, whatever they are, undermine the agreed-upon facts by experts in infectious disease,” Caplan told the Star Tribune. “If you’re way far out of bounds from where the experts are, you shouldn’t be letting your politics drive what you say. And these statements look just like that.”

But Minnesota Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka is standing behind Jensen.

“We are looking into whether or not the board is compelled to investigate every complaint or if they are choosing to investigate Dr. Jensen,” Gazelka said. “Legislators should not have to fear regulators based on their speech. If the bureaucratic state can silence speech through investigations, we have very dark times ahead for our democracy.”

“I’m sure there are naysayers out there who think that I’m getting exactly what I deserve,” Jensen, who is retiring from the state Senate, said in the second part of his video message. “Fine. If it can happen to me, I think frankly that it could happen to anybody. It feels ugly.”

“Thanks for listening,” he concluded, warning, “we’d better all stay engaged.”

Frieda Powers

Senior Staff Writer
[email protected]

Originally from New York, Powers graduated from New York University and eventually made her way to sunny South Florida where she has been writing for the BizPacReview team since 2015.
Frieda Powers

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