May 23, 2024

California’s Medical Anti-misinformation bill might be well intentioned. But it’s a bad idea.

Opinion | California’s anti-misinformation bill is well intentioned. But it’s a bad idea.

The legislation could have a chilling effect on the doctor-patient relationship.

One of the many lessons from the covid-19 pandemic is that misinformation can be deadly. It can lead people to forgo lifesaving precautions and turn instead to potentially harmful therapies. If it’s egregious for politicians and celebrities to purvey misinformation, it’s far worse when the lie peddler is a physician. Surely, such an individual would be in violation of their oath and should be stripped of their medical license.

That’s the thinking behind AB 2098, a bill that passed the California legislature and is waiting to be signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). The measure would make California the first state that could take legal action against health-care professionals for conveying false information about covid-19 and its treatments.

While well-intentioned, this legislation will have a chilling effect on medical practice, with widespread repercussions that could paradoxically worsen patient care.

The bill focuses on physicians accused of disseminating misinformation to patients under their care. (It does not extend to comments in the public domain, such as social media.) On a surface level, this is defensible: The expectation should be that doctors always abide by the gold standard of care. Therefore, those who deliberately give patients advice that counter established guidelines should lose their medical license.

The problem is that medical practice is rarely black and white. Much of the time, broad recommendations are intended to be tailored to the individual patient.

Take the recent guidelines on booster shots. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that everyone 12 and older receive updated boosters. Most doctors would probably agree that elderly individuals should get the new booster right away. But many might advise — as I would — that it’s fine for some patients to hold off and time the booster closer to winter holidays. Some providers might not recommend boosters for children and adolescents, especially if they have already had the coronavirus.

These actions go against federal guidelines. AB 2098, taken to the extreme, could put many practitioners at risk. But is it really right for physicians to be threatened with suspension or revocation of their license for offering nuanced guidance on a complex issue that is hardly settled by existing science?

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Gov. Newsom Signs Bill to Censor CA Doctors Accused of ‘Spreading COVID Misinformation’

Attorneys say AB 2098 is unconstitutional, violation of 1st Amendment

Gov. Newsom Signs Bill to Censor CA Doctors Accused of ‘Spreading COVID Misinformation’

Attorneys say AB 2098 is unconstitutional, violation of 1st Amendment By Katy Grimes, October 1, 2022 8:51 am California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 2098 by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), which will punish physicians and surgeons for ” unprofessional conduct ” for advocating for the potential benefits of early treatment with off-label drugs, or those who dare to ask questions about COVID vaccine safety.

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Doctors Speak Out Against ‘Medical Totalitarianism’ as Newsom Signs Bill That Punishes Doctors for COVID ‘Misinformation’

Doctors Speak Out Against ‘Medical Totalitarianism’ as Newsom Signs Bill That Punishes Doctors for COVID ‘Misinformation’

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed a bill that subjects the state’s doctors to discipline, including the suspension of their medical licenses, for sharing “misinformation” or “disinformation” about COVID-19 with their patients.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed a bill that subjects the state’s doctors to discipline, including the suspension of their medical licenses, for sharing “misinformation” or “disinformation” about COVID-19 with their patients.

California Assembly Bill 2098 (AB 2098) defines “misinformation” as “false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care” and “disinformation” as “misinformation that the licensee deliberately disseminated with malicious intent or an intent to mislead.”

Newsom said the law applies only to physicians’ speech with patients during discussions directly related to COVID-19 treatment.

Language in the bill points out that the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) has warned that physicians who spread misinformation or disinformation “risk losing their medical license, and … have a duty to provide their patients with accurate, science-based information.”

The FSMB, as previously reported by The Defender, takes money from Big Pharma and has a history of challenging and attacking non-pharmaceutical medical approaches used by integrative doctors as falling outside the “standard of care” as they define it.

Commenting on Newsom’s decision to sign the controversial AB 2098, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Children’s Health Defense (CHD) chairman and chief legal counsel, said the law “fundamentally changes the sacred relationship between physician and patient that has existed since Hippocrates.”

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The Defender reached out to numerous physicians who support informed consent and medical freedom.

Here’s what they told us.

Dr. Michelle Perro, California-based pediatrician, said:

“The Golden State has declared its intent with the passage and signing of AB 2098 to effectively muzzle physicians in regards to ‘COVID-speak.’

“Physicians were reticent prior to the passage of this draconian bill to speak on behalf of their patients. With looming threats of loss of livelihood, it is unlikely that any physician will speak out at this juncture. For those physicians still willing to throw down the gauntlet, a mass exodus from California will likely ensue …

“But the largest concern is regarding our children. Parents will not be able to depend on medical professionals and need to protect their own children against ill-advised experimental therapies. This bill will not only remove healthy discourse but will further divide our communities.”

Dr. Sanjay Verma, California-based cardiologist, said:

“Even in the best of times, ‘standard of care’ emerges after years of reproducible research. Even when multiple trials support the generation of new practice guidelines, often years pass before the new practice guidelines are adopted and implemented in community centers.

“In a rapidly evolving pandemic resulting from a new virus … there is all the more reason to insist on the passage of time before codifying prevailing norms into enforceable policies. …

“Throughout the pandemic, contrarian scientific voices have been subjected to censure and censorship. However, often these very perspectives were later proven to be irrefutably true ….

“Informed consent requires the discussion of risks, benefits and alternatives to any medical intervention. CA AB 2098 enables medical board disciplinary action for perspectives that challenges the accuracy and thoroughness of CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administraton] safety monitoring. That itself will cause patient harm.

“Science demands open and transparent debate. Throughout the history of modern medicine there are numerous examples in which the contrarian view led to advances in knowledge and in reassessing product post-market safety.

“CA AB 2098 is the wrong approach to improving trust in public health and maximizing adoption of rational, risk-stratified, evidence-based mitigation efforts during a pandemic that indubitably caused tremendous morbidity and mortality.”

Dr. Liz Mumper, Virginia-based pediatrician and medical advisor to CHD, said:

“I am despondent that AB 2098 is now law. ‘Misinformation’ is not defined. Scientific truth evolves over time — what is labeled as today’s misinformation may be tomorrow’s ingenious breakthrough.

“I worry that excellent physicians who discuss early treatments for COVID or weigh risks versus benefits of the jabs will flee the state.”

Dr. Robert Malone, Virginia-based physician, biochemist and infectious disease researcher, said:

“This bill will primarily act as a strong incentive for all independent-thinking physicians and other medical care providers to migrate their practices to other states.

“It creates yet another social engineering policy that will be weaponized by any person with an axe to grind against any physician or medical provider in the state by filing accusations, which will then have to be investigated and litigated, functionally creating a medical Stasi.

“This is clearly a tool for enforcing propaganda and censorship policies approved by the state of California.”

Dr. Peter McCullough, Texas-based internist and cardiologist, said:

“As a medical expert treating patients with COVID-19 and vaccine injury syndromes, I anticipate AB 2098 will cause physicians to retract from treating such patients.

“AB 2098 makes it impossible for healthcare providers to have honest and fully informed conversations about the rapidly evolving pandemic and the health problems it has brought to Californians.

“This new law hurts the most vulnerable at a time when they need their physicians to be honest and forthright.

“California is on a slippery slope of medical totalitarianism.”

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