Trump and the medical VIP syndrome

It is of course no secret that the wealthy get treated differently from the rest of us and the world of medical care is no exception. Doctors often stray from standard treatments when their patient is seen a an important figure, sometimes in an effort to impress the patient that they are doing as much as they can, and sometimes because the patient demands it. This can happen even when the patient is a friend or relative or a fellow doctor. As we have seen, Trump got all manner of treatments that ordinary people would never have received. This phenomenon even has a name, the ‘VIP syndrome’. But it is not clear that this is a good thing even from the patient’s point of view, because it can result in overly-aggressive treatment that can have unwanted side-effects.

On Friday, after the White House revealed that the president had been given an unapproved but promising antibody cocktail, medical professionals warned that his special treatment, known colloquially in medical circles as “VIP syndrome,” may have adverse effects.

“When a patient is high profile, there’s a temptation to break away from the standard medical care that you would give to any other patient — and sometimes to the disadvantage to the patient, the VIP,” said Dr. Mark Siegel, a Yale academic and physician.

Dr. Lew Kaplan, president of the Society of Critical Care Medicine and a surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania, warned that these types of “non-standard processes, they invite error.”

“One of the swiftest ways to have things go awry is to be treated as a special person,” Kaplan explained, “because it derails the usual process.”

“They are administering a lot of unproven therapies to the president of the United States,” Levy added. “All I can say is, I would never use that stuff in my ICU.”

Siegel said the president’s aggressive treatment plan may reflect an effort by his medical staff “to do more rather than pull back, for fear of being criticized” — another potential side effect of VIP syndrome.

Trump of course while benefiting from receiving a lot of care despite paying only $750 in taxes, says that he wants everyone to get the same experimental drug Regeneron and that he will give it away for free and the military is ready to deliver it to everyone all over the country.

Does anyone really believe this bilge? Trump’s promises become more and more outlandish by the day.


  1. Ridana says

    I’m not quibbling with the concerns raised in the article, but I’m afraid the timing of it is off. While Dumbo is prancing around on his steroid high touting it as a result of all the great treatment he got, warning of adverse outcomes due to that seems like sour grapes and makes the doctors sound petulant that they’re not being sufficiently obeyed and revered (how dare patients have any say in their treatment, especially if the patient is rightish, as Dumbo appears to be at the moment!). RWNJs have already damaged the credibility of medical professionals, so this doesn’t really help things. They should’ve waited until he relapses and ends up in the ICU again.

    Having said all that, I do realize this was not the doctors’ but abc’s bad timing as the ones who went out to get this “story,” and that their intention was exactly that undermining of doctors to add fuel to the controversy, but the doctors who granted the interviews fell for it.

  2. aquietvoice says

    @Ridana, #1:
    Your analysis is right, but I can’t support it. I want to be informed by people to the best of their ability; to hell with political timing.

    We live in a world where Trump can say that the military will delivery super drugs for free to everyone and it’s barely a footnote. Political image opportunism is not as important as being the kind of alternative that only clear thinking can provide.
    The idea that learning about treatments and learning what to expect in the world should only happen at the politically most opportune time is not acceptable.

    Let leaders make statements at opportune times. Let me learn always.

    @Mano, OP:
    It’s so interesting that the most accomplished professionals and experts feel such pressure just from general social status. More than that, it’s a fascinating example of how being in a “top dog” position -- rather than a “good treatment for all” position -- is actively harmful to the people putting themselves on top, not just the people they tread on.

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