'Political hand grenade': Family sues Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville to allow ivermectin for dying COVID patient

·3 min read

Daniel Pisano was given a 5 percent chance of survival after being taken to the Intensive Care Unit at Mayo Clinic on Dec. 18. The 71-year-old man from Jacksonville was put on a ventilator as he fought COVID-19.

His family is now suing the hospital on his behalf to allow Dr. Ed Balbona to use ivermectin treatments for COVID-19. Balbona is a doctor of internal medicine at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, according to the hospital's website.

Circuit Court Judge Marianne Aho last week denied an emergency petition filed by Pisano's family to allow the treatment.

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She wrote in her Dec. 30 ruling that the Pisano family's lawyers have not proven that the "potential benefit to the patient of administering the requested treatment protocol will outweigh the potential harm to the patient of administering the protocol." She also wrote in her denial of the emergency petition that Balbona is not a staff member at the Mayo Clinic.

Balbona told the Times-Union that between the time Pisano was hospitalized and admitted to the ICU, the family contacted him to ask for help. Balbona says he has used ivermectin with other patients in the past, but that the Mayo Clinic denied the use of the treatment, which included 10 other drugs, to try to save Pisano's life.

"It's not about me. It's about the freedom of the family," Balbona said.

The family's lawyers filed a motion for a rehearing on the emergency petition, which was supposed to take place Wednesday morning. The lawyers then asked Aho to recuse herself from the case because of a potential conflict related to previous work Aho had done.

Aho agreed Wednesday to recuse herself.

"I moved for her [Aho] to recuse herself, which it took her about 10 seconds to agree to," Gregory Anderson, one of the family's lawyers, told the Times-Union. "She was in the predicament of having worked for one of the firms that was defending the Mayo Clinic."

A date for a new hearing to reconsider the denial of the emergency petition for the use of ivermectin for Pisano hasn't been set yet. A new judge to preside over the lawsuit will hopefully be selected in the next 48 hours, according to the Pisano family's lawyers.

What is ivermectin, and why do some want it to treat COVID-19?

Ivermectin has been promoted as a COVID-19 cure throughout the pandemic, largely on social media, with anecdotal evidence that it works to lessen symptoms. Scientists are still studying whether the drug could be used as a treatment, but so far there's little data to suggest it's effective against COVID-19.

Ivermectin is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat certain parasites and tropical diseases, including scabies. It is not officially approved to treat any viruses.

First Coast News reported that at an emergency hearing Dec. 30, Mayo Clinic attorney Ed McCarthy, said [Mayo doctors] have rejected [ivermectin] as a reasonable course for COVID patients."

Anderson said Wednesday this case is "a political hand grenade."

"Balbona's protocol is a superb alternative here," Anderson said. "It's just not politically popular."

The Times-Union reached out for comment from Mayo Clinic's listed lawyer, Earl Googe, but hadn't heard back in time for this story.

Katherine Lewin is the enterprise reporter at the Times-Union covering criminal and social justice issues in Northeast Florida. Email her at klewin@jacksonville.com or follow on Twitter @KatherineMLewin. Contact her for her Signal number to share anonymous tips and documents. Support local journalism!

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Florida man's family sues hospital to allow ivermectin COVID treatment

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