An Oregon doctor who refused to enforce mask-wearing at his rural clinic in the middle of the pandemic won't be allowed to practice medicine until the end of the state's public health emergency, the state medical board ruled.
Steven LaTulippe gained national attention in November when he proclaimed to a crowd of Donald Trump supporters that "COVID-19 is no more" and boasted that neither he nor his staff would wear masks when seeing patients, including those with coronavirus symptoms.
"I want to expose what I call corona-mania," he told the crowd.
The Oregon Medical Board found that not only did LaTulippe and his staff not wear masks while treating patients, he encouraged patients to take them off, even banning one of them from the clinic when she questioned their anti-mask advice.
LaTulippe, the medical board found, refused to abide by state standards adopted to curb the spread of the virus, and instead used what he called "survival tactics," which included leaving the door of an examination room open when treating COVID-19 patients and holding his breath during up-close inspections.
LaTulippe's was first suspended on Dec. 3, and on May 6 the medical board upheld the suspension until the end of the state's public health emergency, calling the doctor's practices an "immediate danger to the public and a serious danger to the public health or safety."
Even before the November rally, the Oregon Medical Board had received complaints about South View Medical Arts, LaTulippe's clinic in Dallas, Oregon, where staff refused to wear masks.
Instead of abiding by state standards to screen patients by taking their temperature and asking about COVID-19 exposure and symptoms, LaTulippe allegedly asked his staff to "just take a look at them and see if they look sick."
LaTulippe also testified he has not worn a mask during the duration of the pandemic, even though "there is a very good chance that I have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 [because] I was exposed to some very sick patients and a good number of them."
Along with other preventive measures like handwashing and social distancing, face masks are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the World Health Organization, to slow the spread of the virus that has killed more than 582,000 people so far in the US.
But according to documents from the Oregon Medical Board, LaTulippe believes the body's immune system is more effective at curbing the spread of the virus than masks, and suggested entities like the CDC and the Oregon Health Authority did not acknowledge this because they had an "alternative agenda" and were primarily concerned about "money and power and politics and control of the population."
When one patient called asking for medical advice about possible exposure to the virus during a camping trip with friends, LaTulippe's wife, who also works at the clinic, told her she did not need to get tested or self-isolate, that exposure to other people increased her immunity to COVID-19, and that masks were not effective, the medical board reported.
After the patient called back trying to get the name and credentials of the clinic employee who gave her the advice, she received a letter telling her that she and her spouse would no longer be accepted as patients.
Despite the suspension, LaTulippe also testified that he would refuse to mandate that staff or patients wear masks in his clinic.
"If I have to sacrifice my medical license versus sacrificing my personal integrity as a physician before God, I choose to sacrifice my medical license with no hesitation," he testified, calling Oregon Gov. Kate Brown an "authoritarian totalitarian ruler."