In the letter, a group of 20 neuroradiologists expresses their concerns about public statements made by Atlas, who was formerly the head of neuroradiology at Stanford University prior to becoming a commentator with the Hoover Institution. In August, Atlas was tapped as a special advisor to the White House on the pandemic, and he has become a lightning rod for controversy due to his connections to the "herd immunity" concept for dealing with the outbreak.
For example, Twitter recently removed a tweet by Atlas that cast doubt on whether masks can protect against the spread of coronavirus. Many pundits have questioned whether his credentials as a neuroradiologist make him qualified to assist in the nation's response to the pandemic, although he has won support in conservative circles.
The signatories to the JACR letter accuse Atlas of making misrepresentations about the available scientific evidence regarding the herd immunity theory, which holds that the virus should be allowed to spread among healthy individuals in order to build up immunity in the country while protecting those who are most at risk from infection. The group also accuses him of making statements "devoid of scientific evidence or scholarship" that "misrepresent the safety of children returning to school" and that allegedly "cast doubt on the advice of leading epidemiologists" and other public health authorities.
"We call on our radiology colleagues and other specialties to join us in the active representation of medical ethical principles to minimize harm and to rely on sound science by speaking to the evidence and partnering with those who are trained and knowledgeable to guide the public during this challenging time," the signatories urged.
The JACR letter is similar to an open letter issued by physicians and researchers from Stanford, who in September charged Atlas with "falsehoods and misrepresentations of science."
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