Physician organizations decry coronavirus fraud claims

November 2, 2020
Keith A. Reynolds

As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on and President Donald J. Trump’s fortunes seem to falter, unfounded claims that physicians are lying about the disease are on the rise.

The leaders of the American College of Physicians (ACP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) are pushing back against claims that doctors are inflating COVID-19 coronavirus death counts for financial gain.

The claim has become a favorite of President Donald J. Trump in his last-minute scurry across the country to possibly shore up a victory in the Nov. 3 general election. Along with unfounded claims that the country has “turned a corner” on the coronavirus pandemic which continues to ravage the country.

The New York Times quoted Trump as saying, “you know our doctors get more money if somebody dies from Covid,” to a rally in Michigan on Oct. 30.

Ada D. Stewart, MD, President of AAFP, pushed back against those comments in a statement Nov. 2 saying that capturing accurate data on COVID-19 is imperative to helping community fight the pandemic.

“Suggesting that physicians are artificially inflating COVID-19 mortality numbers for financial gain undermines the global standards for tracking this important information,” Stewart says.

“COVID-19 can cause additional medical conditions, such as a stroke or pneumonia, generate long-term effects, or exacerbate existing controllable medical conditions that can result in death. Had it not been for COVID-19, these patients would likely still be with us today.”

A week prior, Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP, president of ACP, took a similar stance on such claims while also citing studies that show that the COVID-19 death rate has likely been undercounted and saying that attacks on physicians and frontline healthcare workers is “a reprehensible attack on (the) profession and ethics.”

“ACP notes that several recent studies suggest that the actual number of people who have died from COVID-19 is much higher than the terrible toll of 220,000 deaths officially attributed to the virus,” Fincher says in a statement. “Alleging that COVID-19 deaths instead are overcounted undermines the work by physicians and public health authorities to remind the public of the seriousness of the pandemic and to recommend steps to reduce transmission of the virus, cases, and deaths.”

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