Dr. Robert Karas, the health care provider of Washington County Detention Center in Arkansas, has been treating COVID-positive detainees with anti-parasitic drug ivermectin, allegedly without their knowledge or consent. On Monday, local officials agreed to commend him for a "job well done."
The Arkansas ACLU has sued Karas on behalf of four inmates for the alleged treatment, with the detainees saying that Karas and his medical team repeatedly told inmates that the ivermectin pills were "." The local doctor has not shied away from touting the use of the drug to treat COVID, despite the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies advising against doing so.
Karas, who has hadfiled against him for the allegedly inadequate medical care he has provided inmates at the jail, has filed a motion to dismiss the ACLU's case against him. He is also by the state medical board.
Despite the accusations against him, Washington County Justice of the Peace Patrick Deakins introduced a resolution to the local Quorum Court's jail and law enforcement committee on Monday night to commendfor a "job well done" in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
"I don't know the science behind COVID and I'm not so sure anybody does," said Deakins, a Republican who is currently running to be Washington County Judge. "I'm certainly not a doctor and I'm certainly not a virologist, and none of us on this panel are. I don't know the value of one treatment or the appropriateness of it. I don't know the efficacy of ivermectin and I don't know the most useful ways to treat any one individual, and those are not the debate of this resolution, I just want what's best for the health and safety of the county."
Deakins' resolution says that hundreds of millions of people have been impacted by COVID, but that the "numbers and effects of the virus have been largely exaggerated." So far, COVID-19 has resulted in the deaths of 900,000 people in the U.S. alone.
"While over 850 cases of the infection has been recorded in the Washington County Detention Center, Dr. Robert Karas and Karas Correctional Health have effectively treated those cases which has resulted in zero fatalities from the virus," the resolution states.
The resolution continues to say that Karas provided "exceptional medical care" to detainees, and that "the Washington County Quorum Court commends Dr. Robert Karas and Karas Correctional Health for a job well done despite the unique challenges."
The resolution, which has no legal standing and ultimately serves as a kind of support from local officials for Karas, passed the committee, but not before becoming the subject of heated debate among the officials and their constituents.
"If you talk to individuals at our local hospitals that are treating patients after Dr. Karas has treated them, they are very ill," said Justice of the Peace Eva Madison, who has spoken out against Karas giving ivermectin to inmates. "The reality is that he doesn't know. ...He can't possibly know what the effects are of the treatment that he has given."
Many in support of Karas' treatment pointed out that "nobody died," as a result of taking ivermectin.
"I think this doctor knows just as much as anybody else in this damn county, and this damn stuff needs to get behind us," said Justice of the Peace Willie Leming. "This COVID crap is ruining all of us and got us all upside down and crazy, so let's just go back to the good Lord and let's pray about this and let's get it behind us and let's get this country on the right track and move on."
But as Madison and the lawsuits against Karas have noted, at least some inmates claim they have experienced ailing side effects from the medication. The CDC has said people who take "inappropriately high doses" of ivermectin "may experience," including nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, seizures, coma and death.
"How can we tout nobody died when the individuals in this lawsuit claimed health consequences from what he did to them," she said. "You can agree or disagree with the lawsuit, Dr. Karas, but why in the world would this body endorse a practice that's being challenged in court?"
Sarah Moore of the advocacy group Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition said that the situation is about whether or not peoples' constitutional rights have been violated.
"It's incredibly concerning that this body would be considering endorsing when there is current pending litigation that's putting into question whether or not there was consent, whether or not peoples' constitutional rights were violated," Moore said. "It's incredibly inappropriate ... it's basically saying in effect that we don't believe you."
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