Why does this guy still have an Idaho medical license?

The Idaho Board of Medicine has a legal responsibility to discipline doctors for harmful conduct. It is time to consider action against Dr. Ryan Cole, writes guest columnist Jim Jones.

August 3, 2022 4:15 am
Ryan Cole in a white lab coat stands talking in front of a banner that says "Frontline Flash"

Dr. Ryan Cole speaks on a webcast produced by America’s Frontline Doctors called “Frontline Flash.” The organization touts unproven treatments for COVID-19 and opposes vaccination. Cole has served as its medical director. (Screenshot from video)

Garden City pathologist Ryan Cole burst onto the national scene as a leading COVID-19 vaccination denier and purveyor of unproven cures in July of 2021. Speaking at a meeting of America’s Frontline Doctors, a group of COVID-19 anti-vaccination activists, Cole falsely described the life-saving vaccines as “fake,” a “clot shot” and “needle rape.” He falsely claimed that thousands had died from the vaccine.

USA Today fact-checked an article in which Cole reported a “20 times increase” of cancer in vaccinated patients and found it to be “nonsense.” It could be that he has difficulty recognizing cancer because, as the Idaho Capital Sun reported in May, he misdiagnosed two women for cancer last year.

While discouraging people from getting vaccinated, Cole and his America’s Frontline Doctors partners peddled unproven remedies for the virus, including a horse deworming medication (ivermectin) and hydroxychloroquine. The network raked in millions for the fake remedies and online consultations.

Cole has repeatedly warned against life-saving COVID vaccinations, while promoting ineffective cures. That’s like urging soldiers to attack without helmets and body armor.

Shortly after Cole’s national debut, COVID hospitalizations and deaths dramatically surged in Idaho. State officials reported that fully vaccinated people were 11 times less likely to be hospitalized and 20 times less likely to die than unvaccinated people. Idaho hospital physicians say Cole’s actions took a toll on Idahoans whom he convinced to avoid vaccinations.

The Idaho Board of Medicine has a legal responsibility to discipline physicians who engage in harmful conduct. That conduct includes:

  1. directly promoting the sale of drugs to a patient that are unnecessary and not medically indicated;
  2. engaging in unprofessional behavior that could reasonably be expected to adversely impact patient care; and
  3. providing health care that does not meet the recognized standard of care.

The Idaho Medical Association filed a complaint against Cole to the Idaho Board of Medicine last October, asserting that he violated his ethical obligation to “first do no harm” by advising against vaccination and promoting the use of ivermectin. The association had previously warned that Cole’s “dangerous claims about the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 … do not align with the Idaho standard of care.”

It is not clear whether action has been taken on that complaint or others filed with the Idaho Board of Medicine. Cole’s attorney has said the board declined to investigate, the Idaho Capital Sun reported on July 29.

Idaho’s Dr. Ryan Cole defends his medical license, saying complaints are political attacks

Cole is also licensed in Washington and a complaint against him is currently pending before the Washington Medical Commission. The complaint details numerous ways in which Cole’s conduct has endangered public safety. The commission is proceeding with an investigation of Cole’s conduct as it affects Washington. There are certainly grounds for the Idaho Board of Medicine to do likewise in Idaho.

The Idaho Board of Medicine must realize that the language of the statute prohibiting misbehavior that adversely affects patient care is not confined to a doctor’s own patients, but is worded to apply broadly in the health care setting.

The prohibition against violating the standard of care applies to the doctor’s own patients, and it should be noted that Cole admits having prescribed the horse dewormer to 170 of his own patients. The Idaho Board of Medicine should be seeking the details of the doctor-patient interactions that resulted in those prescriptions. That may be complicated because Cole reportedly made the startling claim to the Washington Medical Commission that he no longer has patient records.

Cole is likely hoping that the Idaho Board of Medicine refrains from taking action against his license this year. His Central District Health board sidekick, Raúl Labrador, could win the Idaho Attorney General race and give him permanent immunity. Labrador has repeatedly said that he will run the AG office in a political manner, and what better politics than protecting and rewarding your political chums.

Some progress has been made to lessen Cole’s influence. Cole has been removed from the St. Luke’s Health Partners network and lost his consultant status with the Boise VA Medical Center. It is now up to the Idaho Board of Medicine to do its part.

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Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Jim Jones served as Idaho attorney general for eight years (1983-1991) and as a justice of the Idaho Supreme Court for 12 years (2005-2017). His weekly columns are collected at