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Cancel Culture Comes to Medicine

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Cancel culture has come to medicine. Dr. Scott Atlas, who was chairman of neuroradiology at Stanford’s medical school until 2012 and more recently a senior fellow at the university’s Hoover Institution, has been singled out for professional erasure by 98 of his former Stanford medical, epidemiological, and health-policy colleagues because he had the temerity to join President Trump’s coronavirus task force and advocate rational measures for safely reopening the economy. Their criticisms are unfair, yet typical of today’s political and academic climate.

Atlas’s one-time colleagues published an open letter to other medical-school faculty accusing him of “falsehoods and misrepresentations of science” that “run counter to established science.” The letter — written on Stanford Medicine letterhead that falsely suggests the imprimatur of the medical school — does not cite any publications or specific statements by Dr. Atlas and does not specify exactly what “falsehoods and misrepresentations of science” he allegedly made. But it insinuates that his “failure to follow the science — or deliberately misrepresenting the science — will lead to immense avoidable harm.”

The letter lists five statements supported by “the preponderance of data” and implies that Atlas disagrees with them. The first says that face masks, social distancing, and handwashing reduce the spread of Covid-19. The authors do not cite anywhere where Atlas made claims to the contrary. A recent New York Times article claiming Atlas doubts the efficacy of mask wearing miscites an interview with Fox’s Tucker Carlson in which Atlas actually said people need not wear masks when they are alone but should wear masks when around others and unable to socially distance.

The second statement says asymptomatic people can transmit the coronavirus causing Covid-19 and therefore, asymptomatic persons exposed to Covid-19 should be tested. Again, the letter writers do not cite any divergent statements by Atlas. The same New York Times article that mischaracterized his views on masks, cites another Times piece to claim that the CDC changed its guidance on this issue so that exposed asymptomatic people would not be tested because of Atlas. But that second article specifically says there were “conflicting reports on who was responsible” for the change in policy and never suggests it was solely Atlas. In fact, the article reports that Dr. Giroir, the coronavirus testing czar, stated that all the task-force doctors signed off on the new recommendations which were made with input from the CDC director.

Read the full article at National Review.