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A judge in Wisconsin wrongly tried to force a hospital to give a COVID-19 patient ivermectin, the state’s top court ruled on May 2.
Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Lloyd Carter’s 2021 order that Aurora Medical Center in Hartford administer ivermectin to patient John Zingsheim was improperly entered because the judge “cited no law,” Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley said in a majority opinion.
An appeals court reversed Carter’s order, prompting Zingsheim’s nephew Allen Gahl, who holds power of attorney for his uncle, to ask the state’s top court to step in.
Gahl advanced several arguments, including that Carter properly exercised its authority when it imposed the order requiring ivermectin administration. Aurora Health Care attorneys opposed the intervention request.
“We need not address in depth any of Gahl’s arguments because we do not know on what basis the circuit court issued the injunction. The circuit court cited no law in either its written order or its oral ruling, as Gahl conceded at oral argument before this court,” Bradley said. “This in itself constitutes an erroneous exercise of discretion.”
The majority said a circuit court erroneously exercises its discretion in the context of a temporary injunction when it “fails to consider and make a record of the factors relevant to its determination,” citing a ruling in a different case.
Carter initially said that Aurora had to “immediately enforce” a prescription from an outside doctor for ivermectin. After a hearing, the order was modified to say that the hospital had to credential a doctor identified by Gahl, who could then administer the drug.
Aurora won a stay from an appeals court, which said that the lower court order lacked a legal basis. That was upheld by the Wisconsin Supreme Court majority.
The justices said that the case was not about whether ivermectin, approved in the United States as an antiparasitic, is effective against COVID-19. U.S. officials say it is not, but some doctors dispute that position.
Representatives for Gahl and Aurora did not respond to requests for comment.
Justice Rebecca Grassl Bradley, the only dissenter, said in her dissent that the lower court order was correct, in light of the rights guaranteed by the state Constitution.
“Under the Wisconsin Constitution, the ‘just powers’ of the government derive ‘from the consent of the governed,’ a consent explicitly premised on the State using these powers to secure the people’s rights. The Wisconsin Constitution exists not only to protect the people from an overreaching government but to empower the people’s government to protect their individual freedom from non-state actors,” she wrote. “In this case, the circuit court used its equitable power to craft a narrow remedy, ensuring a non-state actor could not override the decision-making autonomy of a Wisconsin citizen to whom the non-state actor owed a duty of care.”