No one is above the law. Not even a governor. Not even during a pandemic.
But Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer apparently disagrees. Her disregard for the voice of the people, expressed through our elected representatives, has caused profound pain for my medical practice, and, more importantly, the patients I serve. Watching them suffer has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced.
Whitmer’s power grab started a few months into the pandemic. After initially declaring a state of emergency in March and issuing a series of orders to shut down the state’s economy, the governor illegally chose to extend these emergency orders unilaterally. In doing so, she broke the law and the Michigan Constitution, which gives that power to the legislature.
Danger looms when one person tries to regulate the lives of millions. Whitmer’s orders are a case in point. One banned any “non-essential” medical procedures and elective surgeries. This broad elimination of medical care shows a shocking ignorance of how medicine works.
As a physician assistant, I routinely provide medical care that will prevent worsening health problems down the line. What looks like something non-essential in the eyes of a politician or government bureaucrat can actually be very essential to a patient’s overall current health and future health.
Similarly, elective surgeries aren’t unimportant or unnecessary. They’re simply procedures that can be scheduled in advance. They can and regularly do save lives, both in the short- and long-term. There’s no doubt that banning these procedures harmed the health and safety of my patients.
My patients are desperate
Take the story of an elderly woman who I see quite often. Before the pandemic hit, she needed a routine procedure that would have restored blood flow to her leg and allowed her to walk. Whitmer’s order outlawed that procedure.
The woman’s condition worsened until she lost all blood flow to her leg, turning it purple and leaving her in excruciating pain. She called me in a panic, and I was able to get her into emergency surgery. She was hours away from losing her leg altogether.
Another one of my patients had emergency surgery for kidney stones, but could not receive critical follow-up care because of the governor’s orders. Sure enough, he wound up right back in the hospital with an infection, sepsis and kidney failure, which landed him in critical care for weeks.
One of my patients came to see me when he felt like he had nowhere else to turn. The governor's orders prevented him from getting regular treatment for his diabetes. By the time he came to me, he was in a full-on medical emergency. He told me about an odor coming from his foot — it turned out to be gangrene. His kidneys were in full-blown failure.
We rushed him to the nearest hospital, but it was too late. His foot had to be amputated. And then, just days later, he died from complications.
None of this trauma had to happen. But happen it did, because of shortsighted executive orders issued unilaterally by Gov. Whitmer.
Michigan can do what's right
The Michigan Supreme Court has a chance to restore our representative government. On Wednesday, Sept. 9, the court will hear my story, the story of another medical professional, and the story of a patient who couldn’t get the knee replacement he needed.
We are suing the governor because her actions violate the state’s constitution requirement that executive, legislative and judicial powers remain distinct and separate. Not only that, but under Michigan law, emergency powers may only persist for 28 days, unless the legislature agrees to extend them further. Whitmer ignored the law and extended her order anyway.
It’s too late to undo most of the harm that these orders have caused. But it’s not too late for the Michigan Supreme Court to do what’s right. The court should rule that her actions violated state statue and the Michigan Constitution. And the court can prevent her, and future governors, from illegally seizing lawmaking power.
No one should ever have to suffer like my patients have suffered from Gov. Whitmer’s illegal power grab.
Jordan Warnsholz is a physician assistant and owner of both the Wellston Medical Center in Wellston and Primary Health Services in Ludington, Michigan. He is a client in a lawsuit challenging the governor’s use of emergency powers and is represented by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why I'm suing Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's over illegal lockdown