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Exasperated by belligerent, dying COVID-19 patients, Michigan doctor takes to Facebook

A photo of the Beaumont hospital building
Paulette Parker
Michigan Radio
Dr. Matthew Trunsky, a Beaumont pulmonologist, wrote a now widely-shared Facebook post detailing his frustrations with dying COVID-19 patients who still refuse to take the pandemic seriously.

Physically and emotionally exhausted from seeing patient after patient die of COVD-19 complications—some after refusing treatment and medical counsel—Beaumont pulmonologist Dr. Matthew Trunsky took to Facebook to voice his frustrations.

“We're tired of day in, day out Groundhog Day-type of medicine where the patients are similar every day, and the patients are critically ill every day, and the patients are dying every day. And now what's particularly challenging is people are dying from a disease that's largely preventable,” Trunsky told Stateside.

Trunsky works at Beaumont's Troy hospital and specializes in pulmonary critical care and palliative care. He wrote the social media post after a draining 12-hour shift there.

Trunsky said what pushed him to share his experiences and struggles treating some unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, however, was not his own interaction with a patient.

“What really got to me is that a nurse really took the brunt of a patient's wife's anger. And my thought was, I'm fairly thick skinned and I've learned over the years to let stuff just kind of roll off the shoulder, but this is a really good nurse, really smart nurse, but also a young nurse. And I just thought to myself, nobody deserves this.”

Trunsky has always had patients who challenged his practices or questioned his diagnoses. In fact, he said he welcomes the chance to let patients be involved in their own medical care.

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“I'm a firm believer that the care should be delivered with shared decision making. And so I should hear from my patients what's important to them and what their goals are. And then I have the expertise of having the medical knowledge, and together we can make the best plan going forward.”

But that partnership breaks down when misinformation is what's driving the decisions that patients make about their own health care. He's found that more and more patients are coming in demanding unproven treatments or conspiracy theories and misinformation.

“And what I find challenging as the provider is, it's like how conspiracies work and develop, is when people make up a conspiracy, they start with the conclusion, and then they go out to find data that in any way supports their conclusion, which is obviously backwards.”

Despite challenging patients and the rampant spread of misinformation, Trunsky said he still loves his job. Being able to help critically ill patients, and especially those who will not make it, is a meaningful experience for him.

“If I can help somebody at the end of their life pass away by their rules, by their script, I feel really comfortable with that. And you'd be amazed how many patients are receiving care they don't want, because no one's asked.”

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Lucas is a senior at Michigan State University studying professional and public writing. He has previously worked as a co-director of editing for VIM, an MSU fashion magazine. An aspiring music journalist, Lucas dreams of getting paid to go to concerts. He is also a screenwriter. When he’s not working, he can be found walking around aimlessly, listening to either punk rock or Kacey Musgraves.
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