An Indiana doctor whose spiel of pandemic disinformation went viral over the summer has announced plans to spread the word—and, experts fear, the disease—in a new way: a “Medical Center” in his native state that’s poised to shell out his personal regimen for COVID-19.
Dr. Dan Stock, a functional medicine practitioner from outside Indianapolis, rocketed to pseudoscientific stardom in August with a rant he delivered against masks and vaccines at a meeting of a local school board. Now, he’s raising money to launch a facility to dole out what he claims is “true science-based treatment” for the disease.
Public health experts swiftly ripped apart and refuted Stock’s misstatements and mischaracterizations over the summer, but that didn’t stop clips of his tirade from gaining millions of views on social media. Nor did it keep Tucker Carlson from booking Stock on his show and granting him an even larger audience.
The intervening months have seen Stock continue to spread the gospel of COVID-19 conspiracies under the auspices of a new nonprofit called Cyril and Dorothea’s Foundation for Medical Freedom.
Stock and his co-founder, Heather Carie, did not respond to emailed requests for comment or questions about whom they had named the group for. Reached by phone, Stock seemed to sever the call immediately after The Daily Beast reporter gave his name and affiliation.
In September, the foundation organized a rally with multiple Republican legislators outside the state capitol. The following month, Stock featured on the radio program of former White House deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka, who hyped the Hoosier physician as a purveyor of “COVID viral truth.” Then, in November, Stock and Carie spewed more debunked claims about the supposed risks vaccines pose to public health and female fertility at a hearing of the Indiana General Assembly.
All along, the nonprofit’s Facebook page has advocated unproven treatments like hydroxychloroquine, urged readers to contact the disinformation superspreader group America’s Frontline Doctors, and even appeared to advise on how people can dose themselves with “horse paste,” presumably in cases where they could not get a physician to prescribe human ivermectin, another unapproved COVID-19 remedy. (The Foundation includes disclaimers on some of these recommendations that they are “not meant to be medical advice.”)
While the foundation’s following remains small, its posts reveal organizing that extends far beyond the online realm and the conservative media sphere. The Facebook page has shared numerous announcements and recordings of Stock addressing churches and other gatherings across the state. And as national case numbers surge once again and the state hospital system begins to buckle once more, experts fear the plague of disinformation could mean a cold and vicious winter for Indiana.
This willingness to meet people face-to-face makes Stock a particular threat to public health, warned Dr. Maria Brann, professor of communications studies at Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis.
"That’s part of the problem: this is a local doctor, so this is someone that people can see out in the community, it’s not someone who is inaccessible telling them these things,” said Brann, who also holds a masters in public health. “Grassroots campaigns are effective.”
But this month, Stock and his team made their most stunning proclamation yet.
“We are pleased to announce that Cyril and Dorothea’s foundation for medical freedom has begun plans to open a Medical Center in east central Indiana!! We are in need of those in health care that want to provide true science based treatment to covid patients!!” A Dec. 9 Facebook post declared. “We can open our doors as soon as possible!! Thank you all so much!!”
A fundraising page on Christian crowdsourcing site GiveSendGo soon went live, with a goal of amassing $250,000, though that goal later appeared to be revised down to $100,000, and the effort was still very much in the early stages. Still, according to the cash-gathering campaign, the center will bear the name of a 36-year-old Michigan man who passed away earlier this month. The deceased’s family declined to comment to The Daily Beast, but his mother shared a link to the GiveSendGo page, and indicated in a post that the center would open next year.
The news rattled local health experts.
“I’m worried people will die of COVID under his care who didn’t have to die,” said Dr. Gabriel Bosslet, an associate professor of pulmonary medicine at Indiana University in Indianapolis. “I think he’s a charlatan.”
Indiana has been in a nonstop state of emergency since the onset of the pandemic, with one of the lowest vaccination rates in America: just barely over half the populace has gotten both shots, and the evidence is growing that a third jab is needed for protection.
“I and my colleagues are more scared about the coming two months than we have been through this whole pandemic,” he told the Daily Beast. “We’re literally facing down the collapse of the health-care system.”
Bosslet asserted the problem wasn’t just Stock himself but also some Hoosiers’ willingness to listen to him and his ilk—“people who have made medical decisions based on their political beliefs.”
But Brann, the public health and communications expert at IUPUI, warned Stock’s professional background makes him an especially effective peddler of falsehoods.
“When you may be already a little bit reluctant to get the vaccine, vaccine hesitant, and then you have someone who has medical credentials spreading misinformation, that’s only going to push you further in that direction,” she warned. “When you have somebody who has ‘doctor’ in front of their name, people believe what they say and they’re often not really questioning it.”
Stock and his allies have won an audience despite a checkered past.
In 2006, Indiana’s Court of Appeals upheld a judgment against him for professional negligence. Months before he became famous as an anti-vaxxer, he boasted on a YouTube show about his participation in the rally outside Congress that preceded the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6—and insisted that the subsequent deadly rampage through the halls of democracy was mostly peaceful.
“If we’d wanted this to be a revolution, we would have killed everybody in the Capitol building,” said Stock, who indicated he remained outside the structure.
Court records show that in April of this year, a judge granted the doctor’s wife a restraining order against him. Few details about the case are available online, and Stock’s wife and her lawyer declined to comment.
Meanwhile, official documents reveal that two financial institutions have obtained default judgments against Carie—the foundation co-founder and the handler of its fundraising efforts—for nonpayment of debt just this year.
The office of Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican who has fought inoculation mandates but also publicly railed against “absurd” vaccine hesitancy, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The Medical Licensing Board of Indiana did not answer a question about possibly disciplining Stock, as Bosslet has advocated. And the state Department of Health signaled that there may be little they could do to stop Stock from opening his COVID center.
“Unless the center meets the definition of a hospital or another health-care facility or provider type that the Indiana Department of Health regulates, our agency would not have any regulatory authority over it,” a spokesperson said.