Aug 30, 2022 - Health

California advances medical misinformation bill

California State Senator Dr. Richard Pan announces his legislation to make a COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for California students Monday, January 24.

California State Sen. Richard Pan during a January press conference in Los Angeles. Photo: David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

A California bill designed to combat disinformation and misinformation 0n COVID-19 by medical professionals passed in the state Senate on Monday evening.

Why it matters: The bill could see doctors and other medical professionals who spread COVID misinformation or disinformation face disciplinary action for "unprofessional conduct" from the Medical Board of California or the Osteopathic Medical Board of California, which could include having their state license suspended or revoked.

  • If Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) were to sign the bill into law, California would be the first state to take legal action against medical practitioners in response to the spread of false COVID information, per the New York Times.
  • Medical experts and groups including the American Medical Association have said misinformation has exacerbated the pandemic and caused "thousands of unnecessary hospitalizations and deaths," the NYT notes.

Driving the news: The bill, AB 2098, was introduced by Democratic state Assembly member Evan Low in February.

Details: The bill defines disinformation as a "misinformation that the licensee deliberately disseminated with malicious intent or an intent to mislead."

  • It describes misinformation as "false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific contrary to the standard of care."

What they're saying: "Due to their specialized knowledge and training, licensed physicians possess a high degree of public trust and therefore must be held to account," Low said in a statement announcing the bill.

  • "The spreading of misinformation, of inaccurate COVID-19 information, contradicts that responsibility and threatens to further erode the public trust in the medical profession and puts all patients at risk."
  • Fellow Democrat State Sen. Richard Pan, a co-sponsor of the bill, said in order "for a patient to give informed consent, they have to be well informed," per the NYT.

What we're watching: Newsom has three weeks to sign the bill, but he's yet to take a public position on it, per the NYT.

Meanwhile, a group called the Physicians for Informed Consent filed a lawsuit earlier this month seeking an injunction against the Medical Board of California, citing First Amendment rights.

  • The group said in a statement it wants to "protect the free speech of all physicians" in the state and calls the bill's definition of the word misinformation "hopelessly vague."
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