A doctor was immediately suspended after authorities found Facebook posts promoting vitamin C to prevent and treat COVID-19, anti-vaccination material and calls for a halt to Muslim immigration
The doctor also posted attacking “Big Pharma,” saying psychiatrists were akin to undertakers and comments denigrating the LGBTQI+ community.
The Medical Board took immediate action and the doctor’s registration was suspended on 29 May 2020.
The doctor appealed the suspension, but at a hearing at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the appeal was dismissed.
The Tribunal heard that the 76-year-old doctor has practiced full time in Australia and that he has specialised in Balint Psychology, “which he describes as being based on the psychological dynamic between the doctor, the patient and the illness”.
“According to his online biography, Dr Ellis is an Integrative Physician, Futurist, and Peace Worker.”
In November 2019, the Medical Board received a notification about the doctor, from the practice manager of the Melbourne clinic where he was working at the time.
The notification concerned various matters, and prompted an investigation into the doctor’s use of social media.
This revealed posts to Facebook pages that the doctor had set up, including not only his own personal page, but also four Facebook pages of entities that he established or represented.
The Tribunal noted that while the doctor said 75 friends had access to his personal Facebook page, one post attracted 11,500 likes and 11,521 follows.
On 20 May, AHPRA issued a notice of proposed immediate action, including extracts from the doctor’s social media commentary: 56 posts and reposts which contained information about vaccines, chemotherapy, COVID-19 and other medical topics, as well as opinions about certain religious and other groups.
AHPRA described 38 of the posts as “commentary expressing and encouraging views regarding vaccination, chemotherapy, and treatment for COVID-19 and other health topics that have no proper clinical basis and/or are contrary to accepted medical practice and/or are otherwise untrue or misleading”.
It described several more posts as “denigrating and demeaning to the LGBTQI community,” while three were “anti-abortion sentiments” and several were “denigrating and/or demeaning and/or broadly critical of the religion of Islam and that specifically call for the end to migration to Australia by Muslims”.
The hearing highlighted several posts made on Facebook pages which were not the doctor’s personal page.
One post included “follow photographs and information about an infant who was said to have died within hours of being vaccinated”.
“The material indicates that doctors considered it to be a case of SIDS, but the mother said the death was caused by the vaccine,” the Tribunal noted.
The doctor disagreed with the Board’s allegation that by posting this he promoted the view that the child was killed by the vaccine, and said “we had to find out the cause of death,” saying he had hoped to spark a discussion.
The doctor added a headline, “PROOF OF THE TOXICITY OF VACCINES!!!!” to a reposted article, and another repost asserted that the concept of compulsory vaccination had “national socialist roots… that spring from the same ‘master race’ that led the Nazis to embrace eugenics… and dysgenics”. The doctor said he did not agree with this comment and he had posted it to start a discussion.
Another post “was evidently about vitamin C and COVID-19,” the Tribunal noted.
This discussed “universal agreement amongst [d]octors practising functional or integrative medicine that [v]itamin C is of tremendous value in preventing and curing [viral] illnesses”. The post included a suggested protocol for taking vitamins and minerals “to prevent or [minimise] symptoms for future viral infection”.
This was not the only post which referred to vitamin C, with one saying that, “News media attacks on vitamin C are centered (sic) on false allegations of dangers with megadoses. This tactic lets the media ignore the truth that even LOW doses of vitamin C reduce symptoms and death rates. Do not let the media spin this issue. Advocates of vitamin C are medical doctors, not spin doctors. They are experienced, credentialed clinicians who have read the science”.
When it was put to the doctor that it was “grossly inappropriate” for a registered medical practitioner to publish information saying vitamin C was effective at killing the virus, he said it was not his post and hie would not have used the statement if he had read it more carefully.
This post did not suggest that any reader consult a registered health professional.
Another post stated that “DOCTORS ARE EDUCATED ABD BRAIN WASHED UNDER THE GUIDE LINES OF BIG PHARMA” while another stated that chemotherapy did not help breast and organ cancers.
Another post read, “IF YOU SEE A PSYCHIATRIST YOU MAY AS WELL SEE AN UNDERTAKER!!!”.
The doctor acknowledged that the post gave the impression that he was referring to all psychiatrists, but he said that the post was his momentary reaction to a specific report about one psychiatrist.
On a report to the effect that child care centres were expected to ensure toys and books were “gender equitable,” he posted that, “Gaydom comes first at the expense of normal family values – this is an atrocity against the heterosexual community in Australia”.
On another report, in which it was outlined that HIV-positive men in New Zealand should be allowed to donate to a sperm bank, he posted that this would lead to “a likelihood of [a] child having a tendency to gaydom threatening germ line of humanity”.
On a report about a Saudi woman detained in Bangkok who was afraid her family would kill her, he wrote, “This is what moslems (sic) do to moslems (sic) Should they be allowed to immigrate en masse to Australia?”
In response to the proposed immediate action, the doctor said he would close his social media accounts and not post again until the matter was resolved, and that he would delete his commentary as much as possible. He told the Tribunal that he had done these things.
He said he was “horrified and shocked” to see the information provided by AHPRA in the proposal to take immediate action.
He said he thought the posts were “topical and provided current views that were being brought forward at the time for debate” and that they did not reflect his personal views, “just what was topical at the time and in no way whatsoever influenced my medical practice”.
He also said he was “extremely sorry and deeply ashamed to have unwittingly been a threat to the public”.
The Tribunal noted that the right to freedom of expression was not unlimited, and that registered medical practitioners have special obligations in this regard.
It also noted that the November 2019 guidelines on social media include that inappropriate use of social media can result in harm to patients and to the profession.
When considering the appeal, the Tribunal noted that despite the apology and some important concessions, the doctor had, to a significant degree, “obfuscated, minimised the seriousness of his conduct, or tried to distance himself from the commentary”.
The Tribunal decided that it had a reasonable belief that the doctor posed a serious risk to persons, including that he would not encourage a person to receive vaccination where it was indicated, or that he would discourage them from receiving vaccination.
It said there was a “real possibility that he will engage in conduct that could be harmful to persons – whether by publishing (in one form or another) statements that are the same as or similar to the Medical Statements we have been considering; or by practising medicine in accordance with the views he has expressed in those statements rather than in ways that have a proper clinical basis and are in accordance with accepted medical practice”.
It said the medical statements made by the doctor indicated a failure to display integrity and truthfulness, and a failure to protect and promote the health of individuals and the community – and the social statements showed a failure to display compassion.
The Tribunal decided to uphold the Board’s decision to immediately suspend the doctor’s registration.