There have been at least two dozen lawsuits filed around the U.S. demanding hospitals give ivermectin, a deworming drug, to COVID-19 patients, The Associated Press reported.
The lawsuits follow much of the same format; families have gotten a prescription for the drug, but hospitals refuse to use it on the patients, many of whom are on a ventilator, close to death, the news outlet noted.
Many of the lawsuits are filed by Ralph Lorigo, an attorney in Buffalo, N.Y. who says doctors "are not gods because they wear white jackets," adding that he takes issue with the choice not to use ivermectin on patients, according to the AP.
He also said hospital administrators are the only ones able to make the decision.
"I’m not accepting that as a rule of law for us,” he told the AP.
Lorigo filed his first of many ivermectin cases in January after the family of an 80-year-old woman in the hospital on a ventilator came to him for help. Another lawsuit came later that month, this time for a hospitalized 65-year-old woman. In both cases, the judges ruled to give the women ivermectin as their families wanted. Both survived their hospital visits.
While the drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat tiny parasites in people, the administration, state health departments and even the drug’s leading manufacturer, Merck, have all warned against using it for COVID-19.
The FDA also warned that taking it in large doses can cause harmful side effects, such as vomiting, seizures and even death. However, Lorigo said his clients have not asked for those types of doses.
Nevertheless, other judges have refused to order hospitals to administer the drug. Hospitals have argued their standards of care will not allow doctors to give patients a drug not yet approved for COVID-19, adding that it could potentially cause harm, the AP reported.
Arthur Caplan, professor of bioethics at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, said he is also concerned that allowing laypeople and judges to overrule hospitals is a dangerous road.
“The way medicine works is, they are the experts, the doctors and ... the hospitals,” he said, according to the AP. “When you go there, you’re not going to a restaurant. You don’t order your own treatments.
“You can’t have a medical field that’s subjected to having to practice according to patient demand backed up by court orders," he added. "That is positively horrible medicine."