Opinion

This anesthesiologist and state senator spins COVID-19 fairy tales as virus slams Kansas

January 18, 2022 1:30 pm

Kansas state Sen. Mark Steffen is a Hutchinson anesthesiologist and noted purveyor of COVID-19 falsehoods. (May 26, 2021, photo b y Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Hey, Kansas Board of Healing Arts — you might want to check in with Dr. Mark Steffen, the state senator from Hutchinson and noted purveyor of COVID-19 lies.

My predecessor in this opinion editor chair, the incomparable C.J. Janovy, wrote you a letter back in March about Steffen. Unfortunately, it must have gotten lost in the mail or stopped up somewhere in the series of tubes that is the internet. Because things have not gotten better.

Just last week, the anesthesiologist filed a resolution that, in the words of Kansas Reflector senior reporter Tim Carpenter, declared “children shouldn’t be compelled to be vaccinated, people who had the virus ought to be exempted from all restrictions and that government needed to cease interfering with physicians recommending unorthodox treatments.”

You can read the whole resolution here, if you’re eager to take a psychedelic trip this afternoon.

Let’s shoot the fish in this particular barrel.

Of course children should be vaccinated, given that COVID is a novel respiratory virus that has sickened many of them. The American Academy of Pediatrics says so. And while children have been thankfully spared many of the virus’ worst effects, they still live in a world with grown-ups who are far more susceptible. Steffen’s rhetoric aids and abets anti-vaccination forces who threaten to undo one of the most impressive achievements of public health: eradication of common childhood diseases through vaccination.

As for the senator’s “natural immunity” nonsense, doctors strongly recommend vaccination in those previously infected with COVID-19. The shots add protection, and individual immune response to an infection varies widely. Given all this, businesses should have every right to set their own policies on vaccines. Or does government overreach only matter when it comes from Democratic lawmakers?

Finally we come to “unorthodox treatments.” The news is sadly the same today as it was in August, when I named Steffen as a member of the state’s COVID disinformation caucus. Hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin simply don’t work. It would be great if they did — researchers put them through their paces in clinical trials — but they didn’t help patients.

Kansas Reflector did check last week if Steffen had faced consequences from the Board of Healing Arts for his outrageous peddling of misinformation (you can look for yourself right here). No public action has been taken against his license, the agency confirmed.

As the pandemic enters its third grueling year, that’s most unfortunate.

Let’s hope the board pays attention as the session continues. No one should be taking COVID-19 advice from Mark Steffen.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Clay Wirestone
Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone has written columns and edited reporting for newsrooms in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania. He has also fact checked politicians, researched for Larry the Cable Guy, and appeared in PolitiFact, Mental Floss, cnn.com and a host of other publications. Most recently, Clay spent nearly four years at the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children as communications director. Beyond the written word, he has drawn cartoons, hosted podcasts, designed graphics, and moderated debates. Clay graduated from the University of Kansas and lives in Lawrence with his husband and son.

MORE FROM AUTHOR