California Passes Law Allowing Medical Boards to Punish Doctors Who Spread Alleged COVID-19 “Misinformation”

Gavin Newsom
California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 2098 enabling medical boards to punish doctors who spread what is deemed to be COVID-19 misinformation to their patients, including loss of their license to practice medicine. File photo: Sheila Fitzgerald, Shutter Stock, licensed.

SACRAMENTO, CA – Last Friday, California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a piece of legislation that will enable medical boards to punish doctors who spread what is deemed to be COVID-19 misinformation to their patients, up to and including the loss of their license to practice medicine.

Assembly Bill 2098, written by Assemblyman Evan Low, will allow the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California to discipline physicians and surgeons for “unprofessional conduct” for not adhering to the “approved COVID treatment consensus.”

Such violations include advocating for COVID-19 treatment using off-label drugs or questioning the safety of COVID vaccines, a move that some are calling unconstitutional restrictions on free speech.

“The spread of misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines has weakened public confidence and placed lives at serious risk,” the bill reads. “Major news outlets have reported that some of the most dangerous propagators of inaccurate information regarding the COVID-19 vaccines are licensed health care professionals.”


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In a statement issued after he signed the bill into law, Newsom noted that AB 2098 only applies to conduct directly between doctors and their patients; physicians are otherwise allowed to speak their minds about COVID-19 when outside of the context.

“Assembly Bill 2098 provides that the dissemination of misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19 by physicians and surgeons to a patient under their direct care constitutes unprofessional conduct,” he said. “To be clear, this bill does not apply to any speech outside of discussions related to COVID-19 treatment within a direct physician patient relationship.”

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, an epidemiologist and professor of Health Policy at the Stanford University School of Medicine, has been outspoken in his opposition to the new law, especially in terms of its vagueness and far-reaching implications for the future of medicine.

“The language of the bill itself is intentionally vague about what constitutes ‘misinformation,’ which makes it even more damaging. Doctors, fearing loss of their livelihoods, will need to hew closely to the government line on COVID science and policy, even if that line does not track the scientific evidence,” he said. “What is abundantly clear is that this bill represents a chilling interference with the practice of medicine. The bill itself is full of misinformation and a demonstration of what a disaster it would be to have the legislature dictate the practice of medicine.”

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