‘It should be stopped’: Idaho medical group files complaint against Dr. Ryan Cole

The Idaho Medical Association says Cole’s own public statements indicate he is treating patients outside Idaho’s standard of care

By: - October 11, 2021 1:54 pm
Photo of Dr. Ryan Cole speaking at a conference in early October

Dr. Ryan Cole speaks at the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons conference in Pittsburgh early October. (Screengrab from video)

The Idaho Medical Association on Thursday filed a complaint with the Idaho Board of Medicine against Dr. Ryan Cole, a local pathologist who owns Cole Diagnostics and this year was appointed to the lone physician seat on the board of Central District Health, the state’s largest regional public health agency.

“Our primary concern is that he says he has treated patients ‘from Florida to California’ by refusing to use accepted and documented medical practices and vaccination and instead prescribing ivermectin,” the complaint said. “While he has criticized those who advocate vaccination against COVID-19 for violating their ethical obligation to ‘first do no harm,’ in fact he likely has violated that very ethical admonition by advising against vaccination and promoting the use of ivermectin instead. We believe his practice, as he has described it himself, is not in keeping with the Idaho community standard of care and does more harm than good. It should be stopped.”

Cole responded in an emailed statement to the Idaho Capital Sun, calling the association’s complaint “unprofessional” and saying it “sows distrust.”

“There are many ways to care for patients, and in times of crisis, as we have experienced in the last year, our profession must come together to examine all ways we can provide optimal medical care,” Cole said in the statement. “I am an experienced and educated physician with authority to analyze data and share medical science. … We can do better as a profession than to silence those who have a different perspective.”

Statement from Dr. Ryan Cole dated Oct. 11, 2021: I invite members of the IMA, particularly the governing board behind this complaint, to sit down with me to discuss the nature of their concerns about my practice of medicine. Filing a complaint and threatening my license is unprofessional and sows distrust within the medical community and with patients in our state. My mission as a physician is to care for patients. I take my oath to “do no harm” very seriously. There are many ways to care for patients, and in times of crisis, as we have experienced in the last year, our profession must come together to examine all ways we can provide optimal medical care. I am an experienced and educated physician with authority to analyze data and share medical science. Medicine advances when we examine what is and is not working, when we notice patterns, and when we continually strive to improve and find answers to perplexing challenges. We can do better as a profession than to silence those who have a different perspective. My attorneys and I will be working with other physicians and attorneys around the country who have been wrongfully attacked in the media and by those within the medical profession as we fight back against these unfounded complaints and actions. I will continue to put the health and well-being of patients in our community, our state, and our nation first and foremost.
Statement from Dr. Ryan Cole provided by email to the Sun on Oct. 11, 2021

The Idaho Freedom Foundation on Monday published a blog post decrying the complaint, suggesting it was aimed not at Cole’s practices as a physician but at his public comments regarding COVID-19.

The Sun requested and received a copy of the complaint from the Idaho Medical Association.

The association “did not intend for this information to be made public, but somehow the IFF got ahold of this and made it public,” said CEO Susie Keller.

The association’s members “are very troubled about the misinformation and dangerous statements that Dr. Cole has made, but everyone has a right to speak freely,” Keller said in a phone interview. “But the notion that he is treating patients in a way that does not meet the Idaho standard of care is something that truly deserves the scrutiny of the Idaho Board of Medicine.”

Have a tip for us?

If you have documents or information that could assist Senior Reporter Audrey Dutton’s investigative coverage of health care in Idaho, you can provide them at [email protected] or via encrypted email to [email protected].

Cole was listed as a health care provider on a telehealth platform this year. The platform advertised the use of unproven medications for COVID-19. Cole also directed at least one person on his personal Facebook page this year to use the platform.

Cole told the Sun that he personally treated patients by prescribing ivermectin and other drugs to them. The patients lived in Idaho and out of state, he told the Sun. Cole is licensed with a specialty in pathology, not as a primary care provider or specialist in infectious diseases.

But scrutiny of his actions as a physician has primarily focused on his public statements. He has called the COVID-19 vaccine “immune slaughter,” “killshots,” “needle rape” and said the vaccines must be stopped.

He has complained about medical providers not prescribing people drugs that have not been shown to treat COVID-19, including ivermectin.

The IMA complaint refers to these and other statements.

“As a licensee under your jurisdiction, Dr. Cole has made numerous public statements in 2020 and 2021, concerning COVID-19 that are at significant odds with commonly understood medical treatment of COVID-19 and fail to meet the community standard of care,” the complaint said. “We believe many of those statements to be profoundly wrong, unsupported by medical research and collected knowledge, and dangerous if followed by patients or members of the public. Many of those statements have advocated that people not be treated appropriately and undoubtedly have led to and will continue to lead to poor health outcomes as people are encouraged not to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or obtain appropriate treatment for it when such treatment could improve their health.”

“As the director of our medical laboratory and not a primary care provider, Dr. Cole is unable to prescribe medications or issue vaccine or mask exemptions,” a recording on the Cole Diagnostics phone line said Monday. The recording directed callers to a website that promotes unproven treatments for COVID-19, “for valuable information.”

The Idaho Board of Medicine will next review the complaint, and its professional discipline committee may recommend formal action, informal action or dismissal of the complaint. The board is scheduled to meet later this month.

The board did not take any formal disciplinary action in response to a complaint filed in the summer by Idaho 97 Project Executive Director Mike Satz. The complaint pointed to Cole’s public statements on COVID-19 and the Federation of State Medical Board’s position that spreading false information may be cause for discipline.

“The Board’s jurisdiction is governed by what is in its statutes and rules,” the Idaho Board of Medicine’s response said. “Neither the Idaho Medical Practice Act nor the applicable administrative rules provide a basis for the Board to discipline licensees for statements made during a conference, to the media, or in any other public setting.”

When a complaint is dismissed or the board takes informal action, such as educating the provider, those are not public records in Idaho. Individual complaints against a physician also are not public records, nor are the board’s investigatory records.

ID Board of Medicine Ltr 100721 Cole Complaint FINAL

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Audrey Dutton
Audrey Dutton

Audrey Dutton was a senior investigative reporter with the Idaho Capital Sun after 10 years at the Idaho Statesman. Her favorite topics to cover included health care, business, consumer protection issues and white collar crime. Before coming home to Idaho, Dutton worked as a journalist in Minnesota, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Dutton's work has earned dozens of state, regional and national awards for investigative reporting, health care and business reporting, data visualization and more.