Amid the ongoing global pandemic, people who work in health care have gotten well-deserved thanks. Physicians, nurses, aides, janitorial staff, and others who work in hospital, clinic, and outpatient settings have put up with grueling schedules, a lack of personal protective equipment, and burnout from witnessing so much illness and death in rapidly changing environments. That said, there have been medical professionals who have tried to downplay and dismiss the severity of the novel coronavirus.
As is the case with one physician in Oregon, Steven LaTulippe, he once bragged that neither he nor his staff would wear masks while serving patients at his family health clinic in Dallas, Oregon, as reported by The Independent. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Oregon Medical Board ruled that LaTulippe will not be allowed to practice medicine until Oregon’s public health emergency is over, as reported by BuzzFeed News.
Back in December 2020, the Oregon Medical Board issued an emergency suspension on LaTulippe’s license because of “the board’s concern for the safety and welfare of licensee’s current and future patients.” At the time that LaTulippe was boasting about his staff not wearing masks while serving patients, there was a state order requiring that medical professionals wear face coverings while in health care settings. Most recently, on May 6, the board upheld the suspension.
If you’re thinking that LaTulippe’s bragging would have fit in perfectly at a Trump rally, you’re correct. While speaking at Stop the Steal rally in Salem, Oregon, LaTulippe said he wanted to expose what he dubbed “corona-mania.”
“I hate to tell you this,” LaTulippe told the crowd during the Nov. 7 rally. “I might scare you … But I and my staff, none of us, once wore a mask in my clinic.” He also implored people to take off “masks of shame.”
While the original video seems to have been removed from YouTube, you can watch a clip below.
During an investigation in early December, a representative working with the state medical board reported seeing no COVID-19 screening processes at the clinic (like taking the temperature of a patient prior to entry) and no hand sanitizer available to people in the waiting room. They also confirmed that staff and patients alike were not wearing masks, as reported by Oregon Live.
In January 2021, LaTulippe sued the medical board over his suspension, seeking restoration of his license and damages. In a federal lawsuit, LaTulippe alleged his suspension was a violation of his free speech rights and due process. He argued the suspension was a way of penalizing him for a “difference” in medical opinion. He also suggested he had caused no one harm, and that he never forbade patients from wearing masks. In fact, he argues that suspending his license will cause harm to patients in that he is the only provider within a reasonable driving distance that specializes in pain and addiction. He argues that patients rely on him for pain-related treatments, including prescriptions.
Now, serving a rural area does add another dimension to this situation—but it only makes it sadder that people who may not have had other options went to a medical provider who refused masks amid a literal pandemic.