I’m a doctor and a democrat, and I won’t let the crowd force me to choose between the two.

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The high-profile back and forth between Elon Musk and Twitter has started a national conversation about the broader realignment of our cultural priorities and ideology. In the face of a backlash from progressives, Musk argued that today’s Democratic Party “has been hijacked by extremists,” transforming other center-left liberals like me to align with the current perspectives of those of the conservatives.

He’s right — and the Democratic Party’s new and aggressive affinity for debate censorship and muscle doctors is causing many of us to rethink our political allegiance.

ELON MUSK TURNS ON TWITTER AFTER DECLARING HE WILL VOTE NEXT GOP ELECTION

An RN holds the hand of a COVID-19 patient in the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. More than half of patients at the USI are COVID-19 positive, none of whom are vaccinated. (AP Photo/Kyle Green)
(AP Photo/Kyle Green)

I am a lifelong democrat. I voted for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. I used to have an inherent aversion to Republicans, as I joked around with colleagues, similar to how the vaccinated today feel about the unvaccinated. But as the pandemic unfolded and I spoke with doctors across the country and around the world about my experience treating patients, I met many new conservative colleagues and friends who put politics aside. to focus on doing our best at the bedside. It made me more tolerant and understanding of their worldview.

At the same time, I viewed the Democrats, and more broadly the center-left, as the champions of free speech, both in civil society and in our professional institutions. But now, as with today’s progressive political movement, medical boards are adopting policies that censor opinions, defining such speech as misinformation or disinformation, especially scientific opinions around COVID. Medical professionals who refuse to toe the party line risk censorship, revocation and even the loss of their license, a fate far worse than being banned from Twitter.

The trend forces critically minded physicians to face an existential choice: join the crowd and support what many of us see as dangerous policies with no solid scientific basis, or stand up and risk losing their breadwinner.

This trend has troubling long-term implications for patients, who we will all become at some point in our lives.

Consider what is happening in California. A bill passed by the State House grants sweeping new powers to the state medical board to launch investigations into doctors whose COVID treatment decisions “deviate from the applicable standard of care.” Although I am all for policies that protect patients from irresponsible physicians, that is not what this is about. In the bill, the definition of “misinformation” is intentionally vague, the consequences are clear and severe, ranging from “disciplinary action” to the loss of a medical license.

Such a policy runs counter to medical and scientific training. In medical school, we are taught to apply critical thinking and to question even established medical protocols and scientific dogma for important reasons – by questioning and researching, we better understand the basis (or lack thereof) that underlies these beliefs. The history of science is full of established practices thus overthrown. In medical practice, we are driven to use all our knowledge to treat patients using our best judgment and ability and to advance the practice of medicine. The California bill would smash those principles in one fell swoop.

Allowing bureaucrats or politicians to interfere in the doctor-patient relationship does irreparable harm to the practice of medicine. Freedom of thought and expression would be replaced by fear and groupthink. Many doctors choose to agree, even with policies they vehemently disagree with, rather than find themselves out of work and struggling to feed their families.

UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 8: Dr. Pierre Kory, Associate <a class=Professor of Medicine at St. Luke’s Aurora Medical Center, testifies during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing titled Early Outpatient Treatment: An Essential Part of a COVID-19 Solution, Part II, in the Dirksen Building on Tuesday, December 8, 2020. (Photo by Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)”/>

UNITED STATES – DECEMBER 8: Dr. Pierre Kory, Associate Professor of Medicine at St. Luke’s Aurora Medical Center, testifies during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing titled Early Outpatient Treatment: An Essential Part of a COVID-19 Solution, Part II, in the Dirksen Building on Tuesday, December 8, 2020. (Photo by Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

As misguided as California’s effort may be, it will set a precedent for other states to follow. Already, similar efforts are underway at the national level. The Federation of State Medical Boards, a national trade association that represents 71 state medical boards, approved a medical misinformation and disinformation policy at its annual meeting.

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Aligning with censorious Big Tech companies is bottling up potentially game-changing treatments in our ongoing battle against COVID. Cases are rising again, boosted nearly 60% nationwide by Omicron subvariants, and experts are warning of a further rise in the fall. Now is the time to foster — not suppress — the creative thinking that could lead to better treatment strategies.

Science is not static. It is constantly changing. Those providing treatment must have the freedom to do the same. Consider Dr. Anthony Fauci’s statement in January 2022 that COVID “will eventually find just about everyone.” It’s an admission that would have been unthinkable two years ago amid the initial fear of mandatory closures. As facts and science change, so does our collective understanding that drives public policy. This is how the system should work.

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Tribalism and polarization have made our political and medical discourse mean and divisive. Doctors must be kept above the partisan fray, not forced to take sides and choose a jersey. Our jobs are too important and we need to be apolitical to maintain our credibility with everyone who comes to us for treatment. Future advances and innovative medical breakthroughs depend on freedom and medical choice today.

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