Tucson ER Doc’s Political Postings Prompt Pull Out From Public Healthcare Press Conference

ANTI-TRUMP MEMES RAISE QUESTIONS OF PATIENT COMFORT

Dr. Larry DeLuca’s Facebook presence is undeniably partisan.

At a time when more people are looking to medical providers instead of politicians for guidance in dealing COVID-19, one Tucson-area emergency medicine expert is garnering attention less for his professional experiences than for his  partisan statements and social media postings, one of which includes Ivanka Trump holding a sex toy.

Dr. Lawrence DeLuca is board certified in the United States and Europe in internal medicine specializing in critical care. He is also an associate professor of emergency medicine for the University of Arizona and a member of the Committee to Protect Medicare, a political action committee which describes its members as “frontline doctors engaging in direct advocacy and communications in support of a stronger healthcare system in America.”

This week DeLuca was scheduled to participate in a press conference to urge President Donald Trump to cancel his political rallies in Arizona, citing a purported rising number of COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations. And last week, DeLuca was one of several Arizona physicians who called on Senators Krysten Sinema and Martha McSally to reject Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

The nominee should be rejected, DeLuca argued, due to her “hostility” toward current healthcare laws he says benefit Arizonans.

“As physicians, we see up close how COVID-19 devastates people and communities, who need healthcare now more than ever during a deadly pandemic,” DeLuca said in an Oct. 12 statement released by CPM. “When people can access healthcare without worrying about costs and going bankrupt, they are more likely to see a doctor, stay on their medications and do the things we all need to do to stay healthier and stronger against diseases, especially a disease like COVID-19.”

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Although CPM’s press release simply identifies DeLuca as “an emergency medicine physician in Sahuarita,” his Arizona Medical Board profile page lists him as being affiliated with Banner’s University Medical Center.

Arizona Daily Independent confirmed Monday that DeLuca has posted or shared pro-Biden/Harris postings on his personal Facebook page, and has promoted several social-distancing and public health precautions memes.

However, among his more partisan postings are several anti-Trump memes, including one which shows Trump’s minor son and another doctored to depict Ivanka Trump holding a dildo. That has some southern Arizonans concerned, albeit for different reasons.

“What if I am taken to the E.R. wearing my Trump 2020 shirt and hat?” asks Kenneth Little of Vail. “I realize the guy is entitled to a personal life, but I’m an ardent Trump-Pence supporter. It sure makes me nervous thinking of how this doctor would react toward me professionally.”

Meanwhile, Heather Crawner worries the controversy about DeLuca’s social media activities will overshadow his experiences as an emergency medical professional and cause people to ignore his public health messages.

“It’s great that Dr. DeLuca has chosen to speak out about the problems with our healthcare system,” says Crawner, a Pinal County Democrat. “I just hope he understands his political views will come under close scrutiny. And I fear many will dismiss his concerns about the coronavirus and the Affordable Care Act as simply anti-Trump tripe instead of valuable insights.”

Efforts to reach DeLuca before press time were unsuccessful, but two of his Facebook postings on Monday appear to be on point.

“I’m proudly working toward a society where providing evidence-based public health info is not considered a partisan gesture,” read one of his posting, while another stated “I may be a partisan, but I was telling you to do basic infection prevention since before it was a partisan issue.”

According to the American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics, “physicians enjoy the right to advocate for change in law and policy, in the public arena, and within their institutions…However, they have a responsibility to do so in ways that are not disruptive to patient care.”

An opinion noted with the ethics code also states physicians “must recognize that actions online and content posted may negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, may have consequences for their medical careers…and can undermine public trust in the medical profession.”