Trump's special COVID-19 treatment pushes the boundaries of fairness — and ethics experts are concerned
Ethicists are raising questions about the boundaries of fairness regarding President Donald Trump's coronavirus treatment and lack of transparency compared to that of the American public.
Since being hospitalized at Walter Redd Medical Center over the weekend, Trump has touted the exclusive drugs he has received while proclaiming that he has defeated COVID. However, the American public remains in the dark regarding factual details about the president's health. Many ethicists have raised questions about the president's treatment, according to AP News.
Initially, it was reported that Trump was administered Remdesivir—an antiviral drug commonly used for severe COVID cases— along with the antibody cocktail, Regeneron, and the steroid dexamethasone. However, there is no way to measure the effectiveness of these drugs used in conjunction with each other.
Ethicists have weighed in with their concerns about the president's care. George Annas, who serves as the head of the Center for Law and Health Ethics at Boston University.
"He deserves special treatment by virtue of his office," Annas said. "The question is whether it's good treatment."
Annas went on to express concern about Trump's public optics and how it impacts public safety and healthcare. From White House physician Dr. Sean Conley's refusal to offer factual information about the president's condition and treatment to Trump's continued attempts to downplay the severity of the coronavirus while touting unproven drugs, the American public has only been given an obscure view of the coronavirus through a limited scope.
He added, "The public is getting mixed messages about his condition and that's a problem."
Alison Bateman-House, an ethicist for New York University (NYU) Langone Health, also raised concerns about the ethical boundaries Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. may have crossed.
It has been reported that the pharmaceutical giant's spokeswoman Alexandra Bowie has indicated that less than 10 approval requests have been granted for use of the drug. She also reportedly reached out to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's campaign "to make them aware of the compassionate use mechanism, should they need to apply" in the event he contracts the virus. However, "There was no promise of access to the medicine," she said.
According to Bateman-House, that action pushes boundaries when it comes to the promotion of an unapproved product.
"That crosses lines of appearing to promote a potentially unapproved product" in violation of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules, she said. Rather than directing people to enroll in studies, it suggests "just call us up and we'll cut the line for you," she said.
Dr. Steven Joffe, the chief of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, even questioned whether or not Trump's illness was, indeed, an emergency situation.
"It's not clear to me that this was an emergency situation," Joffe said.
He went on to express concern about the flaws in the United States' health care system as he criticized the president receiving treatment unavailable to the American public.
"I think there is something wrong with the privileged, the president, getting special treatment that's not available to the rest of us," he said. "There's so much injustice in our health care system, with so many people not even having access to the basics," as he noted that the favoritism shown to Trump is "a symptom of a much larger problem."
While Trump continues to downplay the virus based on his own experience, more than 7.7 million Americans have been infected with coronavirus and 216,044 have died from the virus.