[Editor’s Note: Dr. Gorski has decided to take the holiday weekend off not just from his main job but from his side hobby of this blog as well. Fortunately, Dr. Howard was able to step in. Dr. Gorski will return next week.]

Dear Mr. Knudsen,

In a previous essay I discussed your article on Sensible Medicine titled Death and Isolation During a Pandemic. In your article, you lamented that “they” did not do a randomized controlled-trial (RCT) of hospitalization visitation policies at the start of the pandemic. I felt your proposed RCT would have been obviously impossible and a waste of resources. There’s no way your study really could have been done.  I concluded that impossible trials such as yours aren’t conjured out of this air to actually advance the cause of medical research. Instead, impossible trials are imagined to convince people that “they” don’t really know what they are doing. Their sole purpose is to create doubt and anger. This is the true goal of methodolatry and why we care so much about this obscure topic here at SBM.

To illustrate my point, let me share with you some of the comments from your article.

  •  I will never forgive the staff that had become so brainwashed with their own needs to mask up, Mask my Mom up over her O2, which she really didn’t need, yet got sent “home” with. Now I realize the incentives to keep C19 monies moving into these hospitals. To the MD that wouldn’t let her go “home” on her birthday, may he be forever riddled with guilt. May he suffer the loss of a loved one in the same manner. May he die alone.
  • The whole thing was soooo inhumane.
  •  The powers that be messed up big time during the Covid pandemic. I hope we never forget how death was dehumanized. It was criminal in my mind.
  • These people need to be held accountable.
  • Maybe COVID will open our collective eyes to see the disaster of having clueless and/or spineless administrators in charge everywhere.
  • There’s an element within the medical system that is deeply inhumane. COVID allowed that element free reign over all of our lives.
  • So many of our policies seemed inhumane at the time, and even more inhumane in retrospect.
  • It was a maniacal focus on eliminating the virus above all other goals.
  •  We did know from the beginning how awful most of these policies would be.
  • Many of us, knowing the horror stories of dying alone as told by friends or family, will avoid hospitals in the future, unless unconscious and transported to one.
  • It was a purposeful dictate designed to wreck humanity.
  • The senseless cruelty of those policies can never, ever be forgiven.
  • Just….it would have been nice if actual doctors could have located their Ethics Balls 3 years ago when all this was happening *because even then they knew it was wrong*, instead of waiting until now when the dust has more or less settled and it’s suddenly safe to be critical of “things that were well-intentioned but ultimately turned out to be less than helpful.” No. They knew it was wrong then. They had an ethical duty to speak up. And if they’re unwilling to apologize for failing in that duty, then I’m uninterested in 2020 (ha!) hindsight.
  • To isolate people who are sick enough to be near death is so cruel I can barely think about it. No, it didn’t prevent the spread of covid.
  • If improvement is to be made then start with questioning WHY did the medical community ever go along with such inhuman policies?
  • We should all be angry. The masks were bad enough (depersonalizing us), but the lockdowns were cruel, inhumane and completely unnecessary.
  • Mistakes were not made; the herd was culled. Well into the pandemic no course corrections were allowed, early treatments were banned, natural immunity was scorned;


Except for one person who had obviously read my previous column, most comments were some version of this. Was this the reaction you were hoping for? Did any of the comments surprise you? Do you think your essay did anything to advance RCTs in the real-world?  Did any commentators implore their fellow reader to volunteer for an RCT?

Several readers shared their tragic stories of their loved one dying alone. As I wrote previously, there is no distance between us on how much suffering this policy created. I saw it with my own eyes. However, the decision to bar families was a tough one that had to be made in an instant at a time when morgues were overflowing, no one was vaccinated, and the virus was brand new. Moreover, it’s far from clear that it the wrong decision was made. There was a strong case to be made for barring visitors at the pandemic’s start and you concede this. Why else would you call for an RCT, which require clinical equipoise, instead of just saying the policy was wrong?

Despite this, you chose not to present any of the reasons hospitals barred visitors at the start of the pandemic. In brief, there literally wasn’t room or staff for any more patients. Our hospitals and morgues were swamped. However, your readers didn’t gain any appreciation for this. They didn’t need an RCT to be certain the policy was misguided. I wonder if some who lost a loved one might have a bit more peace had you explained why hospitals barred visitors and that even if they erred, those who made this policy were trying to save countless lives in an uncertain time.

Sadly, none of your readers found understanding and solace in your essay. Instead, it made them angry and hostile. They felt that a difficult decision made at a difficult time three years ago was obviously “inhumane” and that people need to be held “accountable.” Imagine being someone who had real-world responsibility at the start who now has your decisions second-guessed by people who didn’t have to make any difficult decisions at all. And these people hate you. They think you acted with incompetence and malice. They call you a criminal and hope that you die alone.

The harm from this isn’t just hurt feelings.  All this occurred before your essay, but you should be aware of what’s actually happened on the ground to “they“. Sadly, many people have tried to hold public health workers “accountable”, as your commentator suggested. I previously described the extraordinary abuse and threats public health care workers have received, leading many to quit.

The comments on your article are tame compared to some other articles on Sensible Medicine. Here are some comments on “A Public Health Worker Looks Back at the Pandemic and How We Reacted To It“, by Matt Brignall, who worked throughout the pandemic and had the courage to wade into the lion’s den to share his experience.  Here were some of the comments from his article:




I’m proud of the comments section here at SBM, including my thoughtful critics. While anyone can comment here, I can’t help but think those who do so regularly reflect on all of us at SBM in some way. I think you should feel the same about the people who comment on your website. It may be tempting to disavow some of your commentators, but doctors who’ve cultivated angry and paranoid voices are stuck with them now.  They seem trapped by their profitable new audience, which has led them to adopt anti-vaccine positions they disavowed before the pandemic.

I hope you’ll pause to reflect the on words of James Heathers who wrote in his article, “YOUR FANS ARE DICKS, AND THAT SHOULD MATTER TO YOU

 There is not so much a comments section as a great eructation of savage braying — violent, mean, intemperate, hideous shit is the modal response. Braying at great length, braying by a great many.

And, that is your tribe. Alongside your cardigan, and your curated television appearances, and your professorship, and your papers in The Good Journals, and your overworked graduate students, goes this horde of bilious fucks. These are the people agree with you, who are actively promoting your opinion, and exhort you to have more opinions in future.

Would you pause, at this point?

Would your new best friends change anything at all for you?

Of course, you seem to like your new tribe.


  • Dr. Jonathan Howard is a neurologist and psychiatrist who has been interested in vaccines since long before COVID-19. He is the author of "We Want Them Infected: How the failed quest for herd immunity led doctors to embrace the anti-vaccine movement and blinded Americans to the threat of COVID."

Posted by Jonathan Howard

Dr. Jonathan Howard is a neurologist and psychiatrist who has been interested in vaccines since long before COVID-19. He is the author of "We Want Them Infected: How the failed quest for herd immunity led doctors to embrace the anti-vaccine movement and blinded Americans to the threat of COVID."