At the end of another long shift treating coronavirus patients, Dr. Hadi Halazun opened his Facebook page to find a man insisting to him that "no one’s dying" and that the coronavirus is "fake news" drummed up by the news media.
Hadi tried to engage and explain his first-hand experience with the virus. In reply, another user insinuated he wasn't a real doctor, saying that pictures from his profile showing him at concerts and music festivals proved it.
"I told them: 'I am a real doctor. There are 200 people in my hospital’s ICU,'" said Halazun, a cardiologist in New York. "And they said, 'Give me your credentials.' I engaged with them, and they kicked me off their wall."
Halazun, like many health care professionals, is dealing with a bombardment of misinformation and harassment from conspiracy theorists, some of whom have moved beyond posting online to pressing doctors for proof of the severity of the pandemic, NBC News reports.
And it's taking a toll. Hazalun said that dealing with conspiracy theorists is the "second-most painful thing I’ve had to deal with, other than separation of families from their loved one."
Several other doctors shared similar experiences, saying that they regularly had to treat patients who had sought care too late because of conspiracy theories spread on social media, and that social media companies have to do more to counteract the forces that spread lies for profit.