I’m confident that if the public learns about the plight of Dr. Mary Talley Bowden and what she’s endured since the fall of last year, it will be a game changer about how the practice of medicine is perceived in America. Bowden is the Houston ENT doc who refused to be bullied into abandoning a controversial Covid treatment protocol she insists was responsible for keeping some 4,000 patients out of the hospital. Houston Methodist, widely regarded as the best hospital in Texas and one of the nation’s finest, publicly vilified Bowden as a quack, and the media amplified the disparagement.
Bowden’s story might one day get publicly heard, unfortunately for Houston Methodist before a Texas judge and jury. The Stanford trained doctor this week filed a defamation lawsuit against Houston Methodist seeking $25 million in compensatory damages and punitive damages to be determined by a jury. According to a local press report, Houston Methodist declined to comment on the lawsuit, not even the customary, “the case is frivolous and without merit.”One possible reason is that publicly demeaning Bowden’s claims might be viewed as evidence of “reckless disregard” for the seriousness of her allegations.
Bowden, 50, is raising three adolescent boys on her own. This paragraph from her lawsuit against Houston Methodist and CEO Marc Boom captures the living hell she’s experienced since the powerful hospital publicly disparaged her last November.
Methodist and Boom’s false and defamatory Statements injured Dr. Bowden. She lost patients. She lost business opportunities and substantial income. Her reputation as a physician was severely compromised. The Statements thrust Dr. Bowden into a public controversy and fundamentally changed her life. She is self-conscious in places and at times she was not before. She fears for her safety and the safety and welfare of her children. She worries about schools, physicians and therapists treating her children differently because of the damage done to her reputation (for example, her son was not accepted to any of the four private schools he applied to for high school and Dr. Bowden was informed by a board member at one of them that it was because of the Statements published by Methodist). Dr. Bowden was featured in the Houston Chronicle as one of the most controversial Houstonians of 2021. Methodist and Boom’s egregious and unnecessary attacks insulted, humiliated, shamed and traumatized Dr. Bowden.
Bowden’s lawsuit contains a couple of disclosures I find startling. One is that she was collaborating with two ENTs at Houston Methodist to publish data related to all the Covid patients Bowden was treating. “For Methodist and Boom to say that Dr. Bowden was ‘dangerous’ was clearly reckless disregard for the truth,” the lawsuit states.
Reckless disregard for the truth is a critical standard that must be met in a defamation lawsuit.
The other eye-popping disclosure in the lawsuit is that despite extensive press reports, Houston Methodist never suspended Bowden’s clinical privileges. Rather, the suit claims, the hospital merely “requested information concerning Dr. Bowden’s vaccination status and made an unspecified reference to public use of vulgar, offensive and abusive language directed at others.”
Houston Methodist apparently was unfamiliar with the discourse typically required to be heard on Twitter. Bowden resigned after Houston Methodist publicly disparaged her.
I don’t wish to engage in a scientific debate about the controversial drug ivermectin that was part of Bowden’s treatment. For every scientific paper someone can show me saying that ivermectin is ineffective treating Covid, I’m confident I can find a physician or infectious disease expert from a top-tier medical school that can fault how the study was conducted or question the independence of the researchers. One can’t fairly debate ivermectin because any favorable mentions of the drug for treating Covid are censored by the tech giants who control social media.
The salient facts regarding Bowden are these:
Bowden did her ENT residency at Stanford, deemed No. 1 in the country for the specialty in U.S. News’ just released national rankings. Bowden had nothing to gain, but much to lose, refusing to back down when her reputation was publicly trashed, including by other prominent doctors such as Ronald DePinho, the former president of Houston’s prestigious MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Bowden says she’s safely treated 4,000 Covid patients and that no one under her care that came to see her in the early stages of the disease landed in the hospital. Bowden confirmed in an email exchange that no one from any U.S. regulatory body such as the FDA and CDC ever contacted her to examine her treatments and outcomes. All the disparagement Bowden experienced was based on Houston Methodist’s and its CEO’s public comments.
Bowden also said she’s never once spoken to Boom or even been contacted by him.
A medical hero
I’ve written about Bowden previously (see here and here) and I readily admit I perceive her as a medical hero. The history and betterment of medicine is rife with defiant doctors and scientists who were publicly tarred and feathered for challenging conventional wisdom and later proved correct. Among them was Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician who was fired and deemed a nut job in 1846 for advocating surgeons thoroughly wash their hands before doing procedures. Semmelweis’ defiance saved countless lives, but it took a huge personal toll. He died in an asylum.
A more modern example is an oncologist I befriended years ago specializing in pancreatic cancer, generally regarded as a death sentence. The father of a client of mine was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and specialists at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering advised he was a goner and to quickly get his affairs in order. My client, a brilliant tech entrepreneur, refused to accept the prognosis and found an oncologist who was involved in several experimental treatments that most hospitals wouldn’t approve. My client’s father lived a good quality of life for several years. I had dinner with him years after his dire Sloan Kettering diagnosis and he looked better than I did. He hadn’t lost his movie star good lucks.
I met the oncologist at a party and asked him about his impressive success rate treating pancreatic patients. He said it was because he aggressively pushed the envelope exploring highly experimental routines without following the normal protocols.
“My patients can’t wait for the results of clinical trial outcomes,” he said.
Bowden’s Press Conference
I’ve spoken with Bowden on a few occasions but watching the video of the media conference she held to discuss her lawsuit was the first time I’ve seen her in action. The stress Bowden’s experiencing was clearly visible. I was saddened that she’s been forced to endure such pain and unpleasantness.
It’s beyond me how anyone could watch the video and have an iota of doubt about Bowden’s capabilities and ethics. What drives her is a desire to provide patients uncompromised medical care, which is why she went into private practice and stopped taking insurance. What compelled Bowden to focus on Covid patients was her revulsion that other physicians were turning away unvaccinated patients, including those with cancer.
Bowden isn’t a reckless medical cowboy. Prior to getting trashed by Houston Medical, she was corresponding with an ENT doc at Houston Methodist sharing clinical information and comparing notes. According to her lawsuit, Bowden in July 2021 noticed a troubling trend: most of her Covid patients were fully vaccinated and yet experiencing symptoms. “I guess the goal of the vaccines is to prevent against severe disease,” the Houston Methodist ENT contact replied.
Bowden’s Covid protocol was recommended by a network of physicians on the front lines, treating actual patients in need of real-time care rather than academics and regulatory bureaucrats. Over time, Bowden became increasingly worried about side effects from vaccines that her patients were experiencing and concluded that the government wasn’t being candid about those risks.
The Establishment’s Might
It’s known that the FDA’s two leading vaccine experts resigned in September of last year because of undue pressure from the Biden Administration to approve vaccine boosters. Dr. Marty Makary, one of America’s most well-known surgeons, recently dismissed CDC’s advisory panel as a “kangaroo court.” It’s also been reported that Dr. Fauci and NIH chief Francis Collins openly discussed maligning physicians and scientists who disagreed with them. Some of the experts that Fauci and Collins wanted destroyed were trained or taught at Stanford, Harvard, and Oxford.
What I found most disturbing watching Bowden’s press conference was that she was left to fend for herself. It is estimated that 40 to 60 percent of U.S. prescriptions are written for off-label use, meaning not for the purpose the FDA originally blessed. The practice is considered necessary for the treatment of cancer, pediatric conditions, and rare conditions.
To my knowledge, ivermectin is the only drug the FDA and CDC have ever lodged a campaign against off-label use. According to Bowden and other doctors, the drug is well tolerated with few side effects or adverse reactions with other drugs. If that’s the case, it seems curious the FDA, CDC, and hospitals engaged in an orchestrated campaign to prevent the drug being used to treat Covid.
The American Medical Association
One might expect an organization called the American Medical Association would want to protect the right of doctors to prescribe off-label use. But the AMA has a vested interest in Bowden’s destruction. The AMA partnered with the American Pharmacists Association and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and issued a statement opposing “the ordering, prescribing, or dispensing of ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19 outside of a clinical trial.”
There’s good reason why most doctors don’t belong to the AMA.
I doubt that Bowden’s case will ever go to trial, as I can’t imagine that Houston Methodist would want to risk putting her in front of a jury and telling what’s she’s endured. But the “nonprofit” has about a $4 billion cash reserve, more than ample funds to pay lawyers to grind Bowden down with motions, delays, and appeals. The case could go on for years. Boom could be retired when all is said and done — the Covid pandemic a distant memory.
Few doctors would dare to publicly defend Bowden, as most physicians today are merely hired help employed by hospitals, private equity firms, and giant health insurers. Supporting Bowden would be career suicide. Nevertheless, I’m certain many wish they had Bowden’s courage and resolve and secretly hope that she prevails in her lawsuit.