The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that hospitals cannot be forced to treat COVID-19 patients with ivermectin, the horse deworming drugs embraced by conspiracy theorists and the state’s own right-wing Sen. Ron Johnson (R).
According to Associated Press, the state high court found in a 6-1 decision that Aurora Health Care was under no legal obligation to administer the drug.
The healthcare provider had been sued by a local man, Allen Gahl, in October 2021; he had obtained an ivermectin prescription for the purposes of treating his uncle John Zingsheim. Zingsheim had been placed on a respirator after contracting COVID-19. The Milwaukee news outlet WITI-TV reported:
Gahl obtained a prescription for ivermectin from a retired doctor who had never met Zingsheim or his medical team, but hospital staff said the drug did not meet their standards and refused to administer it. None of the information in the complaint Gahl subsequently filed against the hospital came directly from medical professionals, according to court documents.
The station added that Gahl was represented in the suit by a right-wing law firm, the Amos Center for Justice, “that has brought litigation against ballot drop boxes and promotes conspiracy theories about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines on its website.”
Ivermectin was one of several bogus “cures” pushed by far-right operatives in the U.S. and internationally for use against the virus despite any actual evidence that it had medical benefits, and in spite of advice to the contrary from health care providers and federal agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:
You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it. https://t.co/TWb75xYEY4
— U.S. FDA (@US_FDA) August 21, 2021
Johnson, an ally of disgraced former U.S. President Donald Trump, also took up the campaign to promote ivermectin. As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported in May 2022, Johnson addressed a group calling itself “Doctors for COVID Ethics” and encouraged them to challenge medical science, using violent imagery:
“I need every guerrilla fighting this guerrilla war right now,” he added. “Don’t get out ahead of what the public is willing to accept as truth.”
He also complained that the American educational system had “created a bunch of woke doctors” who did not question authority. A spokesperson for his office downplayed his involvement at the time, saying:
The senator’s goal is transparency from our federal health agencies, not getting fired if you chose not to get vaccinated, and getting those who have had adverse reactions to the vaccine recognized so they may get treatment. He’s never mentioned Nuremberg, intentional genocide, crimes against humanity, criminal intent, or COVID vaccines causing AIDS.
An August 2022 report by the the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis showed that the Trump administration also turned to Johnson in its efforts to push another fake “cure” for the virus, hydroxychloroquine. According to the Journal Sentinel:
[In 2020] Johnson met with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to discuss renewing emergency use authorization for the drug.
In an Aug. 27 email to a number of doctors, as well as former White House adviser Peter Navarro, Johnson wrote that his meeting with Meadows “went well,” according to a copy of the message in the report.
“Other than the President, Meadows, and Navarro, EVERYONE ELSE is [sic] Administration doesn’t want to touch HCQ with a 100′ pole,” Johnson wrote, noting he described to Meadows the potential loss of life and political support that could be possible if hydroxychloroquine wasn’t reauthorized.
Johnson, described by CNN as the Senate’s “leading conspiracy theorist,” was re-elected in November 2022.