Controversial claims made at town hall hosted by Southworth

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By Harrison Wagner, The State Journal, via AP Storyshare

State Sen. Adrienne Southworth (R-Lawrenceburg) and State Rep. James Tipton (R-Taylorsville) held a town hall event on Dec. 18 at the Anderson County Library. It was a stop on Sen. Southworth’s “Town Hall Listening Tour,” where she encouraged her constituents to voice their concerns about issues for the next legislative session.

In an audio recording provided to The State Journal by columnist Teri Carter, who was present at the event, Southworth can be heard claiming doctors are not allowed to exercise what she called “independent judgment.”

Towards the end of the event, a woman spoke to Southworth and Tipton about her nephew, who had died after contracting the coronavirus. She told them she had sent her nephew information about the group America’s Frontline Doctors, who she said would send him life-saving medication. However, he did not call the group, and as a result, she claimed, ended up in the hospital where he later died from COVID-19.

America’s Frontline Doctors, along with its affiliated telehealth provider SpeakWithAnMD.com, are currently under investigation by the House of Representatives’ Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis for “spreading misinformation and facilitating access to disproven and potentially hazardous coronavirus treatments, such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.”

The woman went on to say hospitals are “the last place that you want to go” and will refuse to go against their “protocol,” as she put it, so they will avoid getting sued by unnamed entities. The woman claimed doctors are losing their jobs because they are considering doing something different from what the hospital wants.

“It’s very hard to get them to go with the protocol that you want. Doctors are being fired from hospitals because they are looking at going with maybe a different protocol,” she said. “Now, that’s wrong. This is America. We are not China; we are not Russia. We are America.”

Southworth responded to the woman, by saying she had started on a bill that would function “like a patient’s bill of rights type of thing.” She went on to add that doctors are being treated as employees and are told to not stray from what the hospital has said to do.

“Doctors in the current era are not licensed professionals that can exercise independent judgment,” Southworth said. “We have this problem of the people who we really need to be able to exercise and help us with their expertise, but don’t have the ability to do so.”

Southworth hosted an event on Aug. 31, with Steve Knipper where the pair touted disproven and misleading claims of voting fraud in the 2020 elections. They claimed every presidential election since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, except for Donald Trump’s election in 2016, have been rigged, with no evidence to support it.

“Truly independent judgment is opposite of at-will employment, or even just the forces of the highly regulated market, where there are consequences for not funneling into the status quo,” Southworth said in an email. “People are ultimately responsible for their own health, which is why they have to shop around for best doctor whom they feel they can trust to work for their best interest in realms they do not fully understand.”

Brad Wands, the Director of Marketing and Business Development at Frankfort Regional Medical Center, said in a statement emailed to The State Journal, “Physicians, not hospitals, determine which medications are best for patients, though sometimes that may not always be exactly what the patient is asking for. Physicians have to determine whether a medication is medically indicated, and appropriate for use for each patient, and available.

“Frankfort Regional Medical Center relies on licensed, independent physicians who use their extensive training and experience to assess patients' needs and determine the course of treatment,” he continued. “We support our physicians by giving them information and resources, including the latest research to help them provide the best possible care to our patients.”

While Southworth says this is not an issue directly related to the coronavirus, it has been brought to the forefront because of the pandemic.

“The problem is not the healthcare market players so much as the regulations which create their artificial market. I support all patients doing their research and shopping around, but unfortunately we are in a world where 1-minute TV commercials are telling us what to discuss with our doctor,” Southworth told The State Journal. “The invention of telehealth has its benefits and drawbacks, but it does expand the ability for people to shop a wider range of doctors to gather as much advice as possible and access treatments that are not as commonly available in our country as in other parts of the world. In the end, more access to options is better than less.”

In the statement from Wands, he said, “Frankfort Regional Medical Center has well-established protocols in place to care for patients with infectious diseases. Unfortunately, misinformation can lead to hesitancy to get vaccinated, or seek treatment, leading to preventable deaths.”

While some cases of COVID-19 can still occur in those who are fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says vaccines still “protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection.”

The CDC recommends everyone over five years old get fully vaccinated, and everyone over 18 receive a booster five months after their final Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine, six months after their final Moderna vaccine, and two months after their Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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