Under a bill signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsome (D), doctors in the state could be subject to discipline from medical boards if they are believed to have spread misinformation about COVID-19 to their patients.
Assembly Bill 2098 would “designate the dissemination of misinformation or disinformation related to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, or “COVID-19,” as unprofessional conduct. The bill would also make findings and declarations in this regard.”
The bill does not specifically mention what qualifies as misinformation or disinformation in regards to COVID-19, but leaves that in the hands of the Medical Board of California.
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The bill defines the words “disinformation” and “misinformation within its text. “‘Disinformation’ means misinformation that the licensee deliberately disseminated with malicious intent or an intent to mislead…“Misinformation” means false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care.”
Many conservatives and republicans believe the bill goes too far in contradicting a person’s constitutional right to free speech. George Washington University law professor and Fox News contributor Jonathan Turly believes the bill to be a “chilling” indication of the democrats’ progressive position towards free speech.
“This law is chilling and what it says about free speech in California, [is] these doctors are being told that if they are viewed as spreading misinformation, it will be considered unprofessional conduct, threatening their very licenses,” Turley said. “Many issues like mask and vaccine efficacy are all being cited as areas where they want to stop misinformation. Those are all areas where people were banned from social media making statements that are now considered to be matters in good faith, issues that are worth debating.”
According to USNews, “A doctor who commits such conduct could face discipline by the state medical board or osteopathic medical board and in severe cases, could potentially lose their license to practice in California.”
On the surface, AB 2098 seems like an attempt by government to control the COVID-19 narrative and to force medical professionals to only tell patients what the medical board wants them to hear regardless of how the doctor personally believes about an issue.