Who is Dr Jane M. Orient? Doctor Opposed to Mandatory Vaccinations to Testify Before Senate Committee

Dr Jane M. Orient is executive director of the politically conservative Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.

The 74-year-old Arizona native has been vocal in her criticism over coronavirus vaccines, instead opting to promote "medical freedom" and the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as an alternative treatment.

Dr. Orient has so far opposed the idea to vaccinate all Americans against the coronavirus, going so far as to call mandatory vaccination "a serious intrusion into individual liberty, autonomy and parental decisions."

"People are sick and dying now, and this will not stop the instant a vaccine is approved and deployed," Orient told Newsweek.

The Columbia University-educated physician has been branded a "conspiracy theorist" and an "anti-vaxxer" by some of her critics—labels of which she denies.

Dr. Jane M. Orient
Dr. Jane M. Orient is the executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. The Heartland Institute

More recently, her recent appointment as lead witness at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on early at-home treatment for COVID-19 on Tuesday has elicited criticism from Democrats and others in the medical field.

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, of which Dr. Orient heads, strongly opposes federal interference in medical decisions, including mandated vaccines.

The group, founded in 1943 to "protect private medicine", represents just thousands of the nearly one millions physicians practicing across the US.

Government-imposed vaccination would be a "serious intrusion into individual liberty, autonomy, and parental decisions about child-rearing," the AAPS believes, according to a Senate statement on federal vaccine mandates.

"AAPS believes that liberty rights are unalienable," the statement continues. "Patients and parents have the right to refuse vaccination, although potentially contagious persons can be restricted in their movements as needed to protect others against a clear and present danger. Unvaccinated persons with no exposure to a disease and no evidence of a disease are not a clear or present danger."

In the same statement, Dr. Orient noted that the risk to public health threat is the underlying rationale for government policy on mandatory vaccines. "But how much of a threat is required to justify forcing people to accept government-imposed risks?" she asked.

"It seems to me reckless to be pushing people to take risks when you don't know what the risks are," Dr. Orient more recently told the New York Times, adding: "People's rights should be respected. Where is 'my body, my choice' when it comes to this?"

The doctor noted that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine use a new scientific method and should be treated with more caution.

"If governmental authorities, imbued with a sense of infallibility, impose their will on everyone, the consequences of a bad choice affect millions," the doctor wrote in an article published in March of last year.

"Trading freedom—and free speech—for supposed security ultimately leads to a loss of both. And if government can dictate what you must inject into your own children, what limits can be placed on its power?"

"Deploying vaccine police and shutting down debate will erode trust in health authorities and physicians, although more people may get their shots," an article published in May reads. "But such heavy-handed measures will not defeat the enemy—measles and worse diseases."

Many Republican leaders agree.

"Americans should have the freedom to take the COVID vaccine," Representative Jeff Duncan of South Carolina Duncan tweeted on Saturday. "Americans should also have the freedom to decline the vaccine."

However, Dr. Orient's selection as a lead witness is seen as controversial by many, including federal health officials currently promoting a vaccine as a way to save lives and end a pandemic that has killed more than 281,000 Americans.

It has also prompted harsh criticism from New York Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer.

"At such a crucial time, giving a platform to conspiracy theorists to spread myths and falsehoods about COVID vaccines is downright dangerous and one of the last things Senate Republicans should be doing right now," Schumer said in a statement on Sunday.

An FDA advisory committee is set to meet on Thursday to review data on the safety and efficacy of Pfizer's vaccine candidate. Rollout could begin soon if the agency grants the vaccine emergency authorization.

Dr. Orient will be testifying during Tuesday's hearing on behalf of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons about the need for early out-patient treatment of COVID.

"Refusing to offer treatment until a patient is severely ill and hospitalized has already caused as many as 100,000 needless deaths," she told Newsweek.

The physician reiterated that a patient's freedom to choose or decline medical treatment has not been abolished by this virus.

"Patients have the right to be fully informed about the vaccine, including the facts that are unknown, such as its potential long-term effects on cancer, birth defects, and impairment of fertility," she said. "At present, it is not even known whether the vaccination prevents contagion as opposed to preventing or mitigating symptoms."

Her testimony will also include a call for government guidelines informing doctors about hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for Covid-19 patients, the New York Times reports.

Newsweek has contacted The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons for comment.