Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen achieved national notoriety by sharing unconventional views on COVID-19 with right-wing radio and cable TV hosts like Laura Ingraham, who were eager to hear her play down the pandemic and attack the public health measures put in place by officials governmental.
He downplayed the severity of the virus — calling it a “four-day mild respiratory illness” – and decried measures to contain it, such as universal mask-wearing. Jensen compared COVID-19 public health measures against nazism and last year signed on a lawsuit to block COVID-19 vaccines for children.
A review of his public statements and published writings, however, shows that Jensen has expressed unconventional views on a wide range of health issues beyond COVID-19.
A common theme that family physician Chaska emphasizes in his writings – including two books, one of which is self-published – is skepticism toward modern medicine.
“Patients: Don’t be too willing to accept as gospel truth whatever the doctor claims,” Jensen writes in his first book, “Relationship Matters: The Foundation of Medical Care is Fracturing.” published in 2015. “Trust your instincts, do your homework, and be prepared to consider alternative approaches. What do you have to lose?”
Jensen even advises an unorthodox medical research tool for patients: Google.
Jensen in his two books laments the use of electronic medical records – which much of the medical community praises because it helps providers coordinate care – and said he warns his patients that whatever ‘they tell doctors can end up in their charts and then be seen by government prying eyes.
“How could I have let my patients know that their government is constantly collecting their personal data? Jensen writes in his most recent book, “We’ve Been Played… Exposing the Triad of Tyranny.”
To amplify the government’s warnings of abuse, “We’ve Been Played” is intercut with quotes from British novelist and journalist George Orwell.
Both of Jensen’s books include his own recollections of various encounters with patients. Jensen, whose campaign did not respond to requests for comment, does not use real patient names and says he has sometimes merged various scenes for clarity and emphasis.
Her most recent book is selling at a brisk pace — in her campaign, at least. Jensen’s campaign spent $65,000 earlier this year on ‘We’ve Been Played’ to give to people who donated at least $25 to his campaign, according to campaign finance documents. He sells his first book “Relationship Matters”, which was self-published, out of his private practice.
In both books, Jensen regularly criticizes doctors who prescribe too many drugs.
“I am flabbergasted by the love affair doctors have with their prescription pads,” Jensen writes in “Relationships matter.
Jensen writes that reliance on pharmacology can ultimately be harmful.
“After four decades of caring for patients, I’ve learned an important lesson: Today’s science may be tomorrow’s madness – but that won’t stop doctors from being overly convinced that the prescriptions they write up are the “absolute best medicine” for their patients,” Jensen writes in “We’ve Been Played”.
He describes an encounter with a patient – he calls her “Abby” – who was mourning her late husband and asked Jensen if he thought she should take an antidepressant. Jensen writes that he thought “it was important that she try to go through the grieving process without medication.”
“I’ve seen people who have been prescribed antidepressants and come to rely on them to get through life. Drugs can become a barrier to the process needed to overcome grief,” Jensen writes. He said the answer for her was not prescriptions but “the power of a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment and the simple act of caring”.
In his books, Jensen regularly denounces pharmaceutical companies for flooding the country with drugs and implies that he thought about this trend before prescribing drugs.
Joel Wu, a medical ethicist at the University of Minnesota, said doctors need to treat patients as individuals with unique biological circumstances, even if the doctor has a problem with, say, the pharmaceutical industry. (Wu emphasized that he was talking about doctors in general, not Jensen in particular).
“You always have an obligation to the unique and individual interests and circumstances of the patient before you,” Wu said.
Despite his anti-drug musings, Jensen hasn’t been immune to using his prescription pad liberally, Gov. Tim Walz claimed during their recent televised debate. Citing 2013 data from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid ServicesWalz said Jensen was a top opioid prescriber that year, by which time the addictive properties were well known.
In 2001, Jensen opened her own clinic, Catalyst Medical Clinic, where her daughter also works as a doctor. Jensen describes himself in his books as a maverick who is willing to say provocative things for the benefit of his patients.
“In We’ve Been Played“, Jensen says patients should use Google to find the best treatments, including vaccines. Despite his skepticism about vaccines, he claims the media has unfairly created an image of him as anti-vaccine, but he denies this accusation.
While he’s not against vaccines, however, he’s never had a problem appearing in public with some of the most extreme and vocal. anti-vaxx figures in the world, while also signing the lawsuit that sought to prevent young people from getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
The foreword to “We’ve Been Played” is written by Peter McCullough, an anti-vaxx figure who rose to prominence spreading COVID-19 conspiracy theories, as his request that the pandemic was planned. McCollough writes in the foreword that Jensen is “a modern-day hero” for his stance on COVID-19.
In an encounter in his latest book, Jensen describes a patient who was unsure about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. He writes that he told her he would support whatever she decides to do.
“A lot of people will tell you not to make a fuss about it and go ahead and get vaccinated. Others will say the opposite. But one thing you might not hear is the simple fact that you can’t get vaccinated,” Jensen told a patient. “Over the years involving a variety of vaccines, I’ve had many heartbreaking conversations with people who got vaccinated and then seriously thought about whether they had done the right thing.”
His agnosticism about vaccines sets Jensen apart from the medical mainstream, in which the vast majority of physicians advocate the benefits – both to individuals and to society – of widespread inoculation.
Wu said doctors had taken on a difficult responsibility during the pandemic, as misinformation surrounding COVID-19 spread rapidly and people turned to their own doctors for vaccine advice.
“I think there’s actually a problem when people who are experts and don’t want to exercise their expertise in a way that benefits both individuals and communities,” Wu said, again declining to comment. specifically address Jensen. “It’s the application of a unique power and a unique role in the community, especially when there’s so much misinformation – it’s dangerous.”
Doctors have spoken out against Jensen for his views on COVID-19. In a rare move, the political arm of the Minnesota Medical Association rejected one of their own and endorsed Walz last month. The group cited Walz’s COVID-19 policies and support for abortion rights.
Jensen says the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice has investigated him five times, most recently for his comments on COVID-19 vaccine mandates, questioning the effectiveness of masks and promoting and prescribing ivermectin as an effective treatment for COVID-19. The Board of Medical Practice has not confirmed any complaints against Jensen.
Dr. Penny Wheeler, former CEO of Allina Health, said her advice on COVID-19 has unsettled many doctors in Minnesota.
“I think Scott Jensen is out of step with science, even though he’s a doctor,” Wheeler said. “Many medical colleagues called it an embarrassment to our profession.”