State Sen. Scott Jensen (R-Chaska), a practicing physician, sounded the alarm Tuesday about a CDC guidance that gives doctors the authority to include “suspected or likely” cases of COVID-19 on death certificates.
Jensen said the document, which was sent to him by the Minnesota Department of Health, suggests that he could include a diagnosis of COVID-19 on death certificates even if there were no official lab results confirming the diagnosis.
Jensen made the shocking claim during an interview on Point of View with Chris Berg.
“As a physician, I received an email last week from the Department of Health coaching me on how to fill out death certificates and I’ve never really received coaching from the vital statistics agency in terms of how to do a death certificate. Basically, I felt like they were saying, ‘You know, you don’t have to have a confirmed laboratory test for COVID-19 in order to make the death certificate be COVID-19,’” he said.
Jensen said the guideline implies that it “would be appropriate to diagnosis on the death certificate COVID-19” if a deceased patient had contact with someone who had the virus but never actually tested positive themselves.
“Now we’ve not done that. If someone has pneumonia and it’s in the middle of the flu epidemic, and I don’t have a test on influenza, I don’t diagnose influenza on the death certificate,” said Jensen.
He called the guidance “concerning” and said doctors never place “probabilities” or “presumptions” on death certificates, but “just the facts.”
“Fear is a great way to control people and I worry about that. We’re so darn interested in jazzing up the fear factor that sometimes people’s ability to think for themselves is paralyzed if their frightened enough. That’s not where I want people to be,” he continued.
The document itself was put out by the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System as a “guidance for certifying deaths due to COVID-19.”
“In cases where a definite diagnosis of COVID–19 cannot be made, but it is suspected or likely (e.g., the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), it is acceptable to report COVID–19 on a death certificate as ‘probable’ or ‘presumed.’ In these instances, certifiers should use their best clinical judgment in determining if a COVID–19 infection was likely,” the guidance states. “However, please note that testing for COVID–19 should be conducted whenever possible.”
The Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Vital Records, which maintains birth and death records for the state of Minnesota, now links to the CDC guidance on a webpage for “medical certifiers.”
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