JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A man given a 5% chance of surviving COVID should be allowed to receive Ivermectin treatments despite hospital policy, according to a lawsuit filed against Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.
The family of Daniel Pisano, 71, filed an emergency petition to force the hospital to allow an outside doctor to treat him with Ivermectin. The controversial drug is used to treat parasitic diseases like scabies, and has had anecdotal success in treating some COVID patients.
Ivermectin is not approved as a treatment for the virus and is strongly opposed by the FDA, the CDC and most professional medical organizations.
At an emergency hearing Dec. 30, Mayo Clinic attorney Ed McCarthy conceded the deathbed petition of Pisano’s family presents “a very, very difficult situation,” but said requiring the hospital to provide a medical treatment opposed by his doctors would set a dangerous precedent.
“Like every single national and international health organization, [Mayo doctors] have rejected [Ivermectin] as a reasonable course for COVID patients,” McCarthy said, according to a transcript of the hearing. “The legal remedy that they seek, while grounded in good intentions, is asking the Court to substitute its judgment for the medical professionals' judgment and, frankly, would undermine the integrity of the practice of medicine.”
Pisano was hospitalized with COVID on Dec. 11, admitted to the ICU on Dec. 18, and placed on a ventilator Dec. 22. During that period, his family connected with Riverside physician Dr. Ed Balbona, who treats COVID patients with a protocol that includes Ivermectin.
He has prescribed that treatment for Pisano, something his medical surrogates – his wife and son -- support. However, Mayo has refused to provide Ivermectin, and will not allow Balbona to do so, noting he is not currently board certified and isn’t permitted to practice at their “closed staff” facility, where all physicians are also Mayo employees.
The case is one of dozens nationally in which families want to force hospitals to allow Ivermectin treatments and is at least the third in Jacksonville. Many of the cases are under seal.
However, in a September court order obtained by First Coast News, Circuit Judge Bruce Anderson ordered Baptist Medical Center South to grant Dr. Bruce Boros emergency privileges to treat a 70-year-old Orange Park woman with Ivermectin. The order does not indicate when the treatment occurred, but the patient died four days later.
A second such mandate referenced in the Pisano case says Dr. Balbona was given an emergency court order to administer Ivermectin to a patient at Baptist Downtown. In a statement, Baptist said the hospital has not received other court orders to allow Ivermectin treatments, and that its providers do not use the drug to treat COVID-19, “which is not approved or recommended by public health agencies.”
Chris Pisano, Daniel’s son, said the family took him to Mayo because “they’re the best in the country.”
However, he says they’ve been dissatisfied with his treatment, including the prognosis he said his father received after being moved to the ICU.
“A doctor told my father he was dying,” he said. “He basically said, ‘There’s not much we can do.’ He called me, he said, ‘They don’t want me here. They want me dead.’ He was crying.”
Chris Pisano says the research he’s done since his father’s hospitalization convinced him Ivermectin has merit. He believes federal COVID reimbursements reward hospitals for adhering to existing treatment protocols and disincentivize Ivermectin.
“To me, it's a money trail," he said.
Testifying at the emergency hearing, Dr. Balbona called opposition to the drug “political.”
“There's just no reasonable person or physician would say these medications present more danger or harm to the patient than his current situation,” he said.
Mayo physicians disagree. In an affidavit, Pisano’s doctor said, “the risks of Ivermectin treatment for a patient in Mr. Pisano’s condition outweigh any benefit, which has not been shown to exist.”
The hospital’s lawyers also object to being required to abide by an outside doctor’s treatment regimen. Forcing them to provide unproven and possibly harmful treatments for COVID, Mayo attorneys argued, reduces the hospital to the equivalent of a “fast-food restaurant.”
Florida law allows judicial intervention when there is a disagreement over a patient’s treatment. It’s typically used in cases where a patient wants to decline treatment, like a blood transfusion, for personal or religious reasons.
Mayo co-counsel Earl Googe told Circuit Judge Marianne Aho, “What you're being asked to do is unprecedented… This would be not just the Court taking off its black robe and putting on a white coat, but [would] turn on its head the scientific method as it has been practiced and exercised in medicine. In medicine there are some absolutes, and one of the absolutes is that you prescribe what is effective.”
Aho denied the emergency petition, appearing persuaded by Mayo’s closed-staff policy, as well McCarthy’s arguments. Quoting from a judge’s order in a similar case in South Florida, she said, "An individual's right to privacy is one of self-determination, the right to accept or refuse. It is not a right to demand a particular treatment. It is not a right to substitute one's judgment as to which treatments must be made available by others. There is no right, constitutional or otherwise, of a patient to substitute one's judgment for a medical professional."
Family attorney Nick Whitney filed a request for rehearing Tuesday afternoon. “We don’t think once you’re put in an ICU on ventilators you lose your rights,” he said.
If the motion is denied, the family is prepared to appeal. Pisano says, “We just want our father to have the opportunity to live.”