Legal Briefs: Court Asked to Compel Hospital to Provide Ivermectin to Patient With COVID-19

  • Does a hospitalized patient have a right to a specific treatment? This was basically the question that a Delaware court had to recently decide. The patient checked himself into the hospital where he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and moved into intensive care. The patient was treated in accordance with the hospital’s treatment protocols, which included heated high-flow oxygen, methylprednisolone sodium succinate, remdesivir, methylprednisolone sodium succinate, benzonate, and guaifenesin-dextromethorphan, but his condition did not improve. The patient texted his wife, an attorney, and asked her to request ivermectin, an FDA-approved antiparasitic used to treat topical fungal diseases but is not approved or recommended for treating COVID-19. The hospital refused the request. The wife then found another physician, not associated with the hospital or even in the same town, who was willing to write a prescription for ivermectin without having seen the patient. The patient’s wife had the prescription filled at a local pharmacy but could not get it to her husband, since he was in isolation. The hospital refused to administer or authorize it. The wife filed a complaint in court seeking an injunction that would force the hospital to administer the drug. The patient’s condition was worsening, however, and he ultimately decided to check himself out of the hospital against medical advice to self-administer the ivermectin. He had one dose before his condition rapidly deteriorated and his wife had to call 911. He was returned to the hospital, gravely ill and on life support.

    Four days later, the court held a hearing on the issue. The plaintiff (the patient’s wife) claimed the hospital was violating “the patient/physician contract and the Hippocratic Oath,” as well as the patient’s statutory right to self-determination. The hospital argued that the drug is not meant to treat patients with COVID-19 and that the hospital would be harmed if it was forced to act against medical standards.

    Does a hospitalized patient have the right to a specific treatment?

    (Discussion on next page)

    Ann W. Latner, JD, is a freelance writer and attorney based in New York. She was formerly the director of periodicals at the American Pharmacists Association and editor of Pharmacy Times.