A physician who serves as a Minnesota state senator announced this month that his state’s Board of Medical Practice is investigating him following his criticism in April that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines on the classification of coronavirus deaths could artificially inflate counts.
Dr. Scott Jensen (R) tweeted on July 6 that his video message was the “most important” he has done.
Most important video I’ve done…could this happen to you?
Share the message, no one’s immune to attacks. (part 1/2) pic.twitter.com/gbU06l9oEK
— Scott Jensen (@drscottjensen) July 6, 2020
The physician said the Board of Medical Practice wrote to him that he was under investigation because of allegations he has been “spreading misinformation in regards to the completion of death certificates on a news program,” and “providing reckless advice” in a comparison between COVID-19 and the flu.
In April, Jensen appeared on Fox News with host Laura Ingraham, who read guidelines developed by CDC for completing death certificates.
“In cases where a definite diagnosis of COVID-19 cannot be made, but it is suspected or likely (e.g., the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), it is acceptable to report COVID-19 on a death certificate as ‘probable’ or ‘presumed,’” Ingraham read from the guidelines, emphasizing they appeared to concede how the death certificates are completed is a “judgment call.”
Jensen responded the CDC guidance was “ridiculous.”
“The idea that we’re going to allow people to massage and sort of game the numbers is a real issue,” he continued, “Because we’re gonna undermine the trust and, right now, as we see politicians doing things that aren’t necessarily motivated in fact and in science, the public’s … trust in politicians is already wearing thin.”
During the broadcast, Jensen also provided a hypothetical example of a patient who died due to influenza, with symptoms of cough and fever, but who would have the primary cause of death as “respiratory arrest.”
“I’ve never been encouraged to [notate ‘influenza’],” he said. “I would probably write ‘respiratory arrest’ to be the top line, and the underlying cause of this disease would be pneumonia … I might well put emphysema or congestive heart failure, but I would never put influenza down as the underlying cause of death and yet that’s what we are being asked to do here.”
Jensen added that, under the CDC guidelines, a patient who died after a bus accident, but then tested positive for coronavirus, would still be counted as having presumed to have died from the virus.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Ingraham also played a clip of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci’s response during a briefing to a question about the possibility of coronavirus deaths being “padded.” Fauci replied there are often “conspiracy theories” during “challenging” times in public health crises.
Jensen responded by observing that hospitals receive greater reimbursements for patients being treated for coronavirus.
The senator said in his recent video that he believes he has been “targeted,” but that he intends to cooperate with the investigation.
He received a statement of support from Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka:
Of course I support Dr. Jensen and his medical expertise on COVID because he has proven to be right. USA Today fact-checked and verified Sen. Jensen’s claim that federal payments were greater if patients were confirmed to have COVID.
Gazelka added he is exploring “whether or not the board is compelled to investigate every complaint or if they are choosing to investigate Dr. Jensen.”
“It’s also concerning there are two separate complaints, raising questions about coordination,” the statement continued. “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.”