Commentary

Scott Jensen should lose his Minnesota medical license

July 14, 2022 6:00 am

Likely GOP nominee for governor, Scott Jensen. Via YouTube.

Scott Jensen, a family physician and the likely Republican nominee for governor, should have his medical license revoked. He has repeatedly violated core tenets of medical ethics and responsible practice and engaged in conduct defined by Minnesota statute as cause for disciplinary action by the Board of Medical Practice, including engaging in conduct likely to deceive, defraud, or harm the public. 

Based on his blatant disregard for medical ethics he should no longer be allowed to practice medicine in the state of Minnesota. 

Physicians have knowledge and skills that are not easily learned outside of formal medical training, which means that patients are not able to easily and reliably fact-check the diagnoses or treatment recommendations they receive. It would be unreasonable to expect most people to have enough knowledge of human physiology, illness and pharmacology to recognize when their doctor has made a misdiagnosis or recommended the wrong treatment. 

Because it would be difficult if not impossible for people without medical training to accurately evaluate the clinical competence of a physician, it is the responsibility of the profession to self-regulate, and we do this through the authority of the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice. 

According to Minnesota statute, the primary role of the Board of Medical Practice is to “protect the public from the unprofessional, improper, incompetent, and unlawful practice of medicine.” The importance of this responsibility is immense because it ensures that any person seeking medical care or advice in the state of Minnesota can be assured that the physician caring for them meets basic requirements of medical training, knowledge and ethical practice.

Health and illness are complicated. There are often multiple reasonable approaches to treating an illness, and smart and well-intentioned doctors frequently disagree about which approach is best in a given situation. 

There is a firm line, however, between disagreement regarding an ideal treatment approach and blatant disregard for medical science and consensus. When physicians cross that line and begin recommending harmful treatments or practices to patients, the Board of Medical Practice has a responsibility to intervene. 

Jensen has violated Minnesota law by using his medical title to deceive, defraud and harm the public. As a politician, he has a larger-than-average public platform and has repeatedly used this platform to share misinformation. 

Despite evidence-based medical consensus and recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention against the use of hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin for prevention or treatment of COVID-19 infection, Jensen has promoted these non-beneficial and sometimes harmful treatments. 

He has also minimized the severity of COVID-19 infection, saying “This is like a cold. This is runny nose, low grade fever, sore throat.” 

Jensen has also spread conspiracy-based misinformation related to COVID-19 vaccines and went so far as to sue the government to try and block access to the vaccine for children. His spread of medical misinformation was so blatant that at one point he was banned from advertising on Facebook and removed from TikTok

So then why is he still allowed to practice medicine in Minnesota?

Jensen has said he’s been investigated by the Board of Medical Practice five times, and has even said if elected he would reshape the board more to his liking. “If I get elected in November, do you think their jobs are secure? I get to appoint them. We’ll have picks,” he said, as the Star Tribune reported recently

The spread of misinformation from medical professionals harms people because they then avoid safe and effective methods of disease prevention or treatment. The Federation of State Medical Boards has cited the spread of misinformation as cause for disciplinary action and revocation of medical licenses: “Spreading inaccurate COVID-19 vaccine information … threatens to further erode public trust in the medical profession and puts all patients at risk.”

This is further supported by the American Boards of Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, and Pediatrics, which in a joint statement concluded, “We are particularly concerned about physicians who use their authority to denigrate vaccination at a time when vaccines continue to demonstrate excellent effectiveness against severe illness, hospitalization and death.”

Jensen has repeatedly spread misinformation related to COVID-19 risk, the COVID vaccine, and scientifically disproven treatments. 

He has done so while running for the Republican nomination for governor at a time when the party’s politics were consumed with the politicization of COVID-19 response. 

The people and patients of Minnesota must be able to trust that physicians are putting the health and well-being of patients ahead of their own political aspirations. That is why it is incumbent on the Board of Medical Practice to revoke Jensen’s medical license. 

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Hannah Lichtsinn
Hannah Lichtsinn

Dr. Hannah Lichtsinn is a primary care internist and pediatrician in Minneapolis and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota.

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