An Oregon physician has lost his license because he refused to wear a mask while treating patients and because he spread misinformation about masking, according to an Oregon Medical Board order.
In the 25-page order signed September 2, the board revoked the license of Steven Arthur LaTulippe, MD, a family doctor who had practiced in The Dalles, Oregon, and specialized in pain and addiction medicine.
LaTulippe regularly told his patients that masks are ineffective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and referred his patients to a YouTube video that said masks are ineffective, according to the order. He also regularly advised patients that masks were dangerous to their health, the order stated.
The Oregon board’s revocation was also based on investigations that found LaTulippe mismanaged numerous patients he had been treating for pain or opioid addiction.
“Licensee’s COVID-19 screening protocols did not include taking temperatures on all patients who presented at the clinic,” and did not include asking patients if they had been in close contact with any person who had COVID-19 symptoms or who had tested positive, the order states.
Instead, “licensee had trained his receptionist ‘to look at [the patient] and just take a look at them and see if they look sick,’ and, if the patient was ‘smiling and happy,’ the receptionist was instructed to ask how the patient was feeling.”
If the patient reported they felt fine and were not ill, the patient was directed to the waiting area until LaTulippe’s wife, who worked in the practice with him and also did not wear a mask, led the patient to the exam room.
The Oregon board’s order said that LaTulippe “did not wear a mask when treating patients” in his clinic between March 2020 and December 2020, did not require patients or clinic visitors to wear masks unless they were acutely ill, coughing, or congested with signs of respiratory illness. He told board investigators that at least 95% of his patients chose not to wear a mask while in his clinic.
At one point during Oregon’s state of emergency for COVID-19, LaTulippe treated a patient who had “full-blown” COVID symptoms. LaTulippe “had the patient don a mask during parts of the exam, but did not put on a mask himself.”
He used a consent process to decide whether patients should wear a mask “based on his personal opinions, in general opposition to mask wearing,” and he regularly told his patients that masks are ineffective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 “and should not be worn.” He said SARS-CoV-2 particles are small and can pass through face coverings.
LaTulippe also was ordered to pay a civil penalty of $10,000 for eight instances of unprofessional or dishonorable conduct, 22 instances of negligence in the practice of medicine, and five instances of gross negligence in the practice of medicine.
The revocation of LaTulippe’s license follows a Federation of State Medical Boards advisory that medical boards should consider spreading COVID-19 misinformation as disciplinary offense, and that doctors who spread unproven theories should have their licenses subject to public disciplinary proceedings.
The Oregon board order said LaTulippe’s wife told one patient that wearing masks would cause CO2 issues and compromise the patient’s ability to breathe. When the patient’s adult daughter continued to wear her mask, LaTulippe’s wife said, “Oh, you’re one of those people” in an effort to get the patient to take off her mask.
LaTulippe himself, the board order said, “regularly advised, particularly for his elderly and pediatric patients, that it is ‘very dangerous to wear masks because masks exacerbate COPD and asthma and cause or contribute to multiple serious health conditions, including but not limited to heart attacks, strokes, collapsed lungs, MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infection), pneumonia, and hypertension.'”
The standard of care for Oregon set by the governor’s executive orders included physical distancing and face coverings during clinical practice for patients and providers.