MADISON – The Wisconsin Supreme Court is deciding whether a hospital should have been forced to give a patient ivermectin to treat COVID-19, a ruling that will have implications on how far the court can intervene in the decisions of healthcare providers.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Gahl v. Aurora Health Tuesday.
When Allen Gahl’s uncle, John Zingsheim, was put on a ventilator in October 2021 due to complications from COVID-19, he got a prescription for ivermectin from a doctor not associated with Aurora Medical Center Summit, where his uncle was hospitalized. When doctors at Aurora refused to provide and administer the drug, Gahl sued.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19 infections and has warned users about its potential risks to those who are infected.
The Waukesha County Circuit Court ordered the hospital to give Zingsheim the ivermectin, but then the judge revised his order saying Gahl would have to supply the drug and a doctor to administer it, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.
The case then went to the Court of Appeals District II, where the majority concluded the court had no legal authority to force Aurora Health to administer the drug.
The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies and Wisconsin Medical Society filed briefs with the Wisconsin Supreme Court urging the court to affirm the appellate court ruling that found the law doesn’t give “a patient or a patient’s agent the right to force” private hospitals or physicians to administer a particular treatment that they conclude is below the standard of care.
“Holding otherwise would allow courts to compel treatments that the medical consensus finds to be substandard,” the brief states. “That outcome forces Wisconsin physicians to choose between the law and their ethical duties, potentially exposing patients to harm and physicians to liability.”
In a statement, Aurora Health Care said the health and safety of patients is the top priority, which is why physicians rely on evidence-based treatments.
“We strongly believe that courts should not be allowed to compel providers to administer care that is medically substandard, and we are pleased that the American Medical Association and the Wisconsin Medical Board have weighed in to support our position,” the statement says.
Gahl’s attorney Karen Mueller said the case would show the people of Wisconsin if they “really have any rights or if they are just suggestions and if they are suggestions, then why do we have a legislature?”
Mueller finished third in the Aug. 9 Republican primary for attorney general. She received 25% of the vote with a campaign promise to investigate hospitals for not treating COVID-19 with ivermectin.
On Tuesday, Mueller said “hundreds” of people are dying in hospitals because they are having a drug withheld from them.”
Mueller tied her campaign to former state Rep. Tim Ramthun, who ran unsuccessfully in Aug. 9 Republican primary for governor. Ramthun and Harry Wait, a leader of a Racine County-based group known as H.O.T. Government that promotes false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, attended the Supreme Court hearing.