A doctor prohibited from practicing medicine because of his vaccination status is suing Rhode Island to regain his ability to practice. 

The Rhode Island Department of Health ordered oral and maxillofacial surgeon Dr. Stephen Skoly to cease his critical surgical care on Oct. 1, 2021, after the state denied his medical exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the lawsuit.  

“After four months of being forced out of work, I still held out some hope that all mandates might come to an end in mid February,” Skoly said in a statement. 

He continued: “But now, with Rhode Island’s Speaker of the House [ K. Joseph Shekarchi, a Democrat] and Senate President [Dominick Ruggerio, a Democrat] openly planning with Gov. [Dan] McKee to extend his executive orders and unilateral powers for at least another two months … I am left with no choice but to file this lawsuit.”

The lawsuit, filed Friday in the United States District Court for Rhode Island against McKee, a Democrat, and interim Rhode Island Department of Health Director James McDonald, seeks to stop the state from preventing him from practicing medicine.

“Dr. Skoly is not an anti-vaxxer,” the lawsuit said. “On two previous occasions, he suffered Bell’s Palsy facial paralysis. Considering this medical history, and the scientifically demonstrated association between COVID-19 vaccination and the onset of Bell’s Palsy paralysis, Dr. Skoly requested a medical exemption from the vaccine mandate. He asked the State to treat him in the same manner as other health care workers being granted medical or religious exemptions.”

“Rhode Island’s refusal to acknowledge this medical risk is, in effect, a state directive that Dr. Skoly must risk facial paralysis to continue to practice his profession,” the lawsuit continued. “This state directive is a callous violation of Dr. Skoly’s rights, and unnecessary to protect the vulnerable patient.”

Skoly is represented by the Washington, D.C.- based civil rights group the New Civil Liberties Alliance. He is chairman of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

The complaint presents two arguments, according to a press release from the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity: that Skoly’s “equal protection” and “due process” rights were violated under the 14th Amendment, and that it was an “irrational and arbitrary move” for the Rhode Island Department of Health to deny Skoly’s medical exemption request, particularly in light of his medical history of having Bell’s palsy facial paralysis. 

“Dr. Skoly, who has agreed to comply with required testing and masking protocols, presents no more risk to patients than the hundreds and thousands of other healthcare workers, vaccinated or not, infected or not, who are currently allowed to care for patients under those same protocols,” reads the press release. 

Skoly told The Daily Signal in October that he had a complicated issue following “a couple episodes of Lyme disease, which resulted in me having some Bell’s palsy.”

“I had an ocular injury as a young adult to one of my eyes, which I’ve had some lens replacements,” he explained. “And Rhode Island is pretty known for patients with Lyme disease. I mean, Lyme disease is very prevalent in southern New England. It’s prevalent in Connecticut and Long Island, certainly the Rhode Island shore, the cape, and the islands.” 

Not much was known about Lyme disease when he first had it, Skoly said, noting that it became apparent that the Bell’s palsy he had was “pretty much pathognomonic for making a diagnosis.”

“Some of the literature also suggests that these vaccinations and this COVID-19 vaccination could predispose patients with a history of Lyme disease and Bell’s palsy at an increased risk of developing Bell’s palsy,” he continued. “I recovered fine as a young adult, but I’m in my 60s now and might not recover so quickly or might not recover at all and I really don’t want any issues with my eyes.” 

“So we looked at and we listened to the literature about the medical immunization exemptions,” he continued. “And when my primary care looked at it, there’s really no place, there’s no box to check. You either have an exemption because you have a severe allergic reaction or basically you’ve developed some type of myocardial problem secondary to the vaccination.” 

He contracted COVID-19 in December of 2020, Skoly told The Daily Signal. The doctor said he was “pretty sick for a few days,” quarantined, and ultimately went back to work. 

“It’s given me a pretty robust naturally acquired immunity and probably, and the literature is suggesting, that I might have five times the antibodies that a fully vaccinated person might have,” he said. 

“So that in conjunction with the fact that I have a medical reason to look into, also in conjunction with the fact that throughout this whole process, the whole pandemic, we’ve been practicing heightened universal precautions.” 

The doctor pointed out that he saw many patients throughout the pandemic when there were no vaccines or herd immunity available. 

“Fast forward 19, 20 months later, we’re approaching herd immunity, if not already achieved it,” he said. “We have a vaccination and I have naturally acquired immunity, in addition with universal precautions. I think I should be able to continue practicing.”

CORRECTION: This story was updated to correct the name of the Rhode Island Department of Health’s interim director.

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