It was welcome news this week that the Idaho Medical Association, the organization that represents doctors in Idaho, filed a complaint about the practice of Dr. Ryan Cole, a pathologist who was appointed this year as the sole physician on the Central District Health board.
Cole gives terrible advice on public health policy, advice that is contrary to the consensus within the medical community and endangers anyone foolish enough to believe him. He has compared tested, safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 to the experiments of Nazi doctors, promoted unsupported and potentially dangerous treatments like high-dose ivermectin, and generally flooded the public consciousness with inflammatory, quackish nonsense.
Cole has called the COVID-19 vaccine “immune slaughter,” “clot shots” and “needle rape.” These are the sorts of ludicrous assertions doctors would fall over laughing at, if these assertions weren’t harming and killing people.
The Idaho Medical Association’s complaint — which it intended to keep private but was leaked — is correct in saying Cole’s public statements have been “enormously irresponsible and injurious to the public.”
But if you’re sitting back, hoping the board that reviews medical licenses is going to save you from this foolishness, you’re making a big mistake.
The role of the Idaho Board of Medicine is to determine whether someone is qualified to practice medicine and whether they should be subject to professional discipline. Idaho’s physician community has certainly made a strong case for sanctions.
Cole’s statements about his practice, that he has treated patients all over the country, prescribing them a potentially harmful treatment without any serious evidence of efficacy, should be investigated thoroughly. And if he is breaking the rules, he should be punished.
But his participation in public health policy, where he certainly does more harm than in his private practice, is going to be a harder problem to solve. Certainly, if Cole’s license were revoked, he would no longer be eligible to act as the board’s physician.
But if a county commission is dedicated to it, it will always find a Dr. Cole.
When hyperpartisans with more ideology than sense, men like Rod Beck and Ryan Davidson, dominate the Ada County Commission, you end up with partisan politicians like Raul Labrador on the board of Central District Health. And you wind up with probably the only doctor in the Northwest who has described life-saving COVID-19 vaccines as a “crime against humanity” appointed as the board’s physician.
So you can’t hope for salvation to come from a board of good, qualified doctors. At its root, the public health board situation is now a political problem that requires a political solution. This is a problem that can only be solved through organizing, campaigning and voting.
And it has to be solved. At the time of writing, Idaho has lost 3,190 people to COVID-19. It’s as if someone firebombed the city of Salmon, wiping it totally off the map.
The best way to stop this is to convince more people to follow the standard, rooted-in-science public health advice: get vaccinated, wear a mask in public places, stay home when you’re sick, maintain social distance. That requires having qualified professionals dedicated to public health on health boards, and the representatives of those boards are put in place by county commissioners.
So if you want a responsible person on the Central District Health board, you need to work on putting responsible people onto the Ada County Commission.
No one is coming to save us.
We have to save ourselves.
Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board. Board members are opinion editor Scott McIntosh, opinion writer Bryan Clark, editor Chadd Cripe, newsroom editors Dana Oland and Jim Keyser and community members J.J. Saldaña and Christy Perry.