President Trump elicited disgust and anger from nearly the entire medical community this week, after he said that doctors were over-counting COVID-19 deaths to rake in piles of cash.
Trump called American doctors “smart people” at a Michigan rally on Friday, saying that “what they do is say, ‘I’m sorry, but you know, everybody dies of COVID.'”
“Our doctors get more money if someone dies from COVID,” Trump said, adding that a death due to the virus was “like $2,000 more.”
Large swaths of the medical community expressed revulsion at the remarks.
“Throughout this pandemic, physicians, nurses, and frontline health care workers have risked their health, their safety and their lives to treat their patients and defeat a deadly virus. They did it because duty called and because of the sacred oath they took,” Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement. “The suggestion that doctors — in the midst of a public health crisis — are overcounting COVID-19 patients or lying to line their pockets is a malicious, outrageous, and completely misguided charge.”
Bailey alluded to the record spike in infections, saying that the country’s leadership was “attacking us and lobbing baseless charges at physicians” instead of “following the science and urging adherence to the public health steps.”
The American College of Emergency Physicians said that it was “appalled” by Trump’s “reckless and false assertions” in a statement.
“These baseless claims not only do a disservice to our health care heroes but promulgate the dangerous wave of misinformation which continues to hinder our nation’s efforts to get the pandemic under control and allow our nation to return to normalcy,” the group said.
Others reamed Trump for the remarks.
Sam Ghali, an ER doctor at the University of Kentucky, reminded everyone who needed to be reminded that “doctors do NOT get more money if somebody dies from COVID.”
Hi ER Doc here,
I can’t believe this needs to be said but doctors do NOT get more money if somebody dies from COVID.
RT so people don’t believe this made up BS https://t.co/7wuEuFbAOX
— Sam Ghali, M.D. (@EM_RESUS) October 31, 2020
Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, told Trump to “go to hell.”
FOR F*CK SAKE!!! Trump just picked the wrong goddamn fight trying to blame doctors for “phony” #COVID19 diagnoses and deaths. Here are over 20+ doctors who have **DIED ON THE FRONTLINES** among almost 2000 healthcare workers who have died.
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) October 31, 2020
Dr. Leana Wen, a visiting professor at George Washington University’s School of Public Health, described the remarks as “beyond insulting.”
This is beyond insulting.
Healthcare professionals have been risking their lives. We're doing everything we can to address this public health crisis, one made worse because of Trump admin's lack of action.
We need support, not false accusations.https://t.co/Yj47xLfKbH
— Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) October 30, 2020
Trump’s statement appears to have been inspired by a long-debunked narrative on the right that a large proportion of COVID-19 deaths are actually due to separate, unrelated causes.
There’s never been any evidence to support that notion. Career government officials like chief of mortality statistics at the CDC Bob Anderson have said that 92 percent of deaths where COVID-19 was present are due to the virus.
Vice President Joe Biden also homed in on the remarks Friday, noting that “our doctors are putting their lives on the line, busting their necks.”
“He said they’re making up deaths from Covid-19 because they get more money,” Biden added. “My lord.