With minimal discussion and almost no public awareness –other than by the proponents themselves – the Sarasota County Commission last Tuesday adopted a 'medical freedom resolution, as well as a companion resolution declaring Sarasota to be a 'Bill of Rights Sanctuary County.'
If Smith felt, as he put it, 'a little blindsided,' others clearly weren’t. Eighteen people spoke during public input, many heeding a 'call to action' from the We The People Health and Wellness Center, a freedom-based' Venice medical clinic with ties to The Hollow, a right-wing gathering place in South County.
And much like those who spoke at a Sarasota Memorial Hospital board meeting in February challenging patient care during the pandemic, these speakers – including several medical personnel and a few self-described 'refugees' from the left-leaning states of California and New York – shared their negative personal experiences due to shutdowns, mask mandates and vaccine discrimination and demanded personal choice and free access to alternative treatments.
The medical freedom resolution that passed states that citizens’ constitutional rights were violated by discrimination based on their medical and vaccine status during the pandemic and challenges the rights of organizations such as the World Health Organization to set protocols. It also grants protection against being quarantined, guarantees the right to a medical advocate and excludes third-party interference.
Those who would have spoken against the resolution said they were unaware it was even under consideration. The county commission did not request any input from the hospital or the county health department – nor did it analyze the potential implications of the resolution, which could handicap the ability of local providers to care for the sick and protect public health. It was adopted as an official local government action without the thorough and factual vetting it deserved.
Whether the resolution has the teeth – or legal binding – to tie the hands of medical facilities and professionals is uncertain. But it does open the door to possible risks, among them:
A patient with a deadly and contagious disease like Ebola or malaria could reject quarantining and treatment and be free to spread the virus at will. Patients in a mental health crisis who have been deemed a risk to themselves or others could voluntarily leave the hospital against medical advice.
Health care practitioners, regardless of expertise or licensing, could prescribe any medications or therapies. Personal medical rights could take precedence over any mandates from the World Health Organization and any other international body, or federal or state government. All medical or vaccine passports would be prohibited in Sarasota County.
The companion resolution (also modeled after Collier County’s) declares Sarasota to be a 'Bill of Rights Sanctuary County,' with 'the right to be free from the commanding hand of the federal government and the right to seek judicial relief from the unlawful conduct of federal government officials in response to unconstitutional federal government measures.'
It’s easy to have compassion for anyone who lost a loved one or suffered trauma during the early, frantic stages of the pandemic, when the Centers for Disease Control and Protection was scrambling to determine best practices and medical facilities and personnel were stretched thin.
But it’s impossible not to see this latest effort as continuing partisanship from the same extremist faction that helped elect the 'freedom candidates' to the Sarasota Memorial Hospital board who subsequently pressed for evaluation of the hospital’s care during the pandemic. (That evaluation, by the way, found outcomes better than the national average.)
There may be value in some of these demands. Having a health care advocate is wise for anyone in a compromised physical condition and a review of hospital visitation policies during a health emergency is already underway. But, taken to an extreme, an individual’s freedom of medical choice can endanger others; while risking your own life is your prerogative, risking the lives of others is not.
This is likely just an opening salvo; the real danger lies in what Conni Brunni, president of the Sarasota County Republican Assembly Chapter and new chair of the Sarasota chapter of Moms for Liberty promised in her closing statement.
'This is only the beginning,' Brunni warned. 'We’ll be back with implementing ordinances that have teeth.'
An ongoing assault on SMH could result in the dismantling of a world-class, well-respected and admirably administered public hospital. Before we allow that to happen, it’s critical to demand our local government policies are based on science and fact and developed through an inclusive process that doesn’t cater to the demands of a single group or political faction.
'What this is all about is folks being heard,' declared a satisfied Moran. 'It truly acknowledges that the government works for the people, not the other way around.’
He forgot just one thing: The government should work for all
the people – not just those who have loud voices and the ear of an elected official who shares their political perspective.
If you, like me and many of my friends, have received excellent care at SMH – in some cases life-saving care – now is the time to make sure your own stories are equally heard, and to ask for a reconsideration of this resolution.
Contact Carrie Seidman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-238-0392