Doctors condemn conspiracy theory pushed by Trump that COVID-19 deaths are over-counted by hospitals

"It’s reprehensible."

A body is moved to a refrigerator truck serving as a temporary morgue outside of Wyckoff Hospital in the Borough of Brooklyn on April 4, 2020 in New York. - New York state's coronavirus toll rose at a devastating pace to 3,565 deaths Saturday, the governor said, up from 2,935 the previous day, the largest 24-hour jump recorded there. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)
A body is moved to a refrigerator truck serving as a temporary morgue outside of Wyckoff Hospital in Brooklyn, New York in April. –Bryan R. Smith / AFP via Getty Images

Doctors and health professionals are slamming President Donald Trump and his White House advisors for continuing to push a conspiracy theory that hospitals are over-classifying COVID-19 deaths for money. 

At a campaign rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin on Saturday, Trump told his supporters that “doctors get more money and hospitals get more money” if they say people died from COVID-19 rather than their comorbidity — a conspiracy theory that has been debunked — as the president pressed his case that the United States is “rounding the turn” on the pandemic, despite public health officials stressing repeatedly that the opposite is true.

On social media, doctors hit back at the claim from the president, blasting the baseless allegation that medical professionals are coding more deaths as due to COVID-19 for financial gain. 

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“For healthcare workers, it’s really exhausting to have a president constantly working against us — instead of with us — in the middle of a pandemic,” Dr. Craig Spencer, the Director of Global Health in Emergency Medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, wrote

The New York doctor added that health care workers are “working nonstop, often without adequate PPE, because this administration failed.”

The American College of Emergency Physicians issued a statement rebutting Trump’s  claim, calling it “reckless and false” that doctors are over-counting deaths related to COVID-19.

“To imply that emergency physicians would inflate the number of deaths from this pandemic to gain financially is offensive, especially as many are actually under unprecedented financial strain as they continue to bear the brunt of COVID-19,” the group wrote. “These baseless claims not only do a disservice to our health care heroes but promulgate the dangerous wave of misinformation which continues to hinder our nation’s efforts to get the pandemic under control and allow our nation to return to normalcy.”

In rebutting the president’s claim, doctors shared what working on the front lines during the pandemic has been like for them. 

“[To be honest] most of us took pay cuts,” Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician and director of the Brown Lifespan Center for Digital Health, wrote

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Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, didn’t mince words. 

This is crap,” he wrote of the conspiracy theory pushed by the president. “Everyone knows it.”

In a thread on Twitter, he laid out in detail the debunking of the theory, blasting Trump for continuing to peddle it. 

“While doctors and nurses are dying on the front lines, our leaders aren’t working to get them protective equipment,” Jha wrote. “Instead, they are falsely accusing our front line providers of fraud. It’s reprehensible.”

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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