Did California Just Ban Medical Misinformation?  What we know

Did California Just Ban Medical Misinformation? What we know

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Sarah Reingewirtz/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images
  • California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed legislation that would allow the state medical board to discipline doctors and surgeons who spread misinformation about COVID-19 during patient care.
  • Misinformation is defined in the legislation as “false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care”.
  • Medical misinformation about COVID-19 suspected of keeping U.S. vaccination rate relatively low

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation Sept. 30 that would allow the state medical board to discipline doctors and surgeons who spread misinformation about coronaviruses during direct patient care.

This includes the ability to suspend or revoke their California medical license.

The bill, AB2098, says any licensed physician or surgeon commits “unprofessional conduct” if they spread “misinformation or misinformation” about the nature and risks of the virus, prevention and treatment of COVID-19. , and the development, safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.

In a statement released that day, Governor Newsom emphasized that “this bill does not apply to any speech outside of discussions directly related to COVID-19 treatment in a direct doctor-patient relationship.” .

Therefore, doctors or surgeons who spread misinformation about COVID-19 on social media will not be sanctioned.

Misinformation is defined in the legislation as “false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care”.

According to the law, misinformation is misinformation that is “deliberately disseminated [by a physician or surgeon] with malicious intent or intent to mislead.

Newsom explained in his statement that the language of the law “is narrowly tailored to apply only to … egregious cases” of misinformation or misinformation about COVID-19.

He also acknowledged that he was “concerned about the chilling effect other potential laws could have on doctors and surgeons who need to be able to speak effectively to their patients about the risks and benefits of treatments for a disease. which has only appeared in recent years. .”

“However, I am confident that discussing emerging ideas or treatments, including subsequent risks and benefits, does not constitute disinformation or disinformation under the criteria of this bill,” he said.

Dr. Brianna da Silva Bhatia, COVID-19 health strategist for Physicians for Human Rights, said misinformation and misinformation about COVID-19 has “hindered the ability of scientific, medical and public health professionals to respond to the pandemic”.

“We can’t help but wonder how many lives would have been saved if…there had been global solidarity, especially around transparency, truth and scientific process from the onset of the crisis,” she said.

Much of this misinformation has involved COVID-19 vaccines; these untruths have deterred many people from getting vaccinated.

With a heavy toll on the American population.

If every eligible person in the country had rolled up their sleeve, nearly 319,000 American lives could have been saved through April 2022, according to an analysis by researchers at Brown University and Microsoft AI Health.

Additionally, misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 cause between $50 million and $300 million in economic losses every day, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security estimate.

“Even more shocking is the number of medical professionals – many of them doctors – who have engineered, amplified and disseminated misinformation that has been clearly shown to be false,” da Silva Bhatia said.

“Their behavior contributed to unnecessary deaths and irreparable damage to public health,” she added.

Given the significant negative impact of COVID misinformation, da Silva Bhatia agrees that the Medical Council of California should have the ability to discipline doctors who “betray their professional ethics and the public trust.”

Additionally, she said it is “deeply troubling” that this legislation is needed to stop doctors from spreading lies about COVID-19 to their patients.

Michelle Mello, PhD, JD, professor of health law and policy at Stanford University Schools of Law and Medicine, pointed out that the California Medical Board already has the power to take action against doctors for misconduct. professional.

“So it makes sense to me that a medical board vested with the authority to ensure competent medical practice takes place in the state would want to tackle this kind of misinformation,” she said.

Essentially, the new law takes it a step further by clearly defining misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 as unprofessional conduct.

Mello expects that if a doctor or surgeon is disciplined because of the law, there will likely be legal challenges.

However, “the Legislature appears to have made a calculated decision that it is prepared to test this law in court against inevitable challenges,” she said.

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