California Covid Misinformation Law Confused by Lawsuits, Conflicting Ordinances

Yves is here. Despite the nebulousness of California’s Covid censorship law, one of the few areas seemingly clearly covered is threatening the licenses of doctors who recommend or worse, prescribe ivermectin. While doubts about its effectiveness are reasonable, ivermectin has a better safety profile than aspirin, so portraying it as a health hazard is Big Pharma propaganda. And in a textbook case of class hypocrisy, I.M. Doc reports that nearly all billionaires and other very wealthy people who spend part of the year in his neighborhood demand it.

Needless to say, this law also shows the true authoritarian coloring of the Democrats. In other words, when you lost Leana Wen…..

Bernard J. Wolfson, Senior Correspondent and Columnist for California Healthline, was previously business editor for the Orange County Register and health reporter, where he, along with two colleagues from the Register, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for a groundbreaking report on spending vs. quality in 30 local hospitals. Produced Kaiser Health News

Gov. Gavin Newsom may have been prudent when he acknowledged free speech concerns by signing the California Accord. covid disinformation bill The last failure appeal to deputiesThe governor warned of “the chilling effect that other potential laws could have” on doctors’ ability to speak frankly with patients, but expressed confidence that the one he signs does not cross that line.

However, a law meant to punish doctors who give patients false information about covid-19 is currently in limbo after two federal judges issued conflicting rulings in recent lawsuits that say it violates freedom of speech and too vague for doctors to know what he forbids. tell them to patients.

In two trials, Senior U.S. District Judge William Schubb in Sacramento ruled. temporary stop on the application of the law, but it applies only to plaintiffs in these cases. Schubb said the law was “unconstitutionally vague”, in part because it “fails to provide a person of ordinary intelligence with fair notice of what is prohibited”. His decision last month clashed with the Santa Ana decision in December; in this case, U.S. District Judge Fred Slaughter refused to repeal the law and said it would “likely contribute to the health and safety of covid-19 patients in California.”

The legal fight in the nation’s most populous state is, to some extent, a continuation of the pandemic-era struggle, in which supporters of public health guidelines are opposing groups and individuals who have resisted masking orders, school closures and vaccination bans.

California’s Coronavirus Disinformation Act, which went into effect in January. 1 is disputed by vaccine skeptics and civil liberties groups. Among those suing Get the Law Declared Unconstitutional is a group founded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has been questioning the science and safety of vaccines for years.

But doubts about the law are not limited to those who have fought the scientific mainstream.

Dr. Leana Wen, professor of health policy at George Washington University and former President of Planned Parenthood and Health Commissioner of Baltimore, wrote in a review weeks before Newsom signed into law that it would have “a chilling effect on medical practice, with wide-ranging implications that could paradoxically impair patient care.”

Northern California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union suspendedagainst the law on the basis of freedom of speech, although the national organization confirmedconstitutionality of covid vaccination mandates.

“If doctors are afraid of losing their licenses for giving advice they find helpful and relevant, but they don’t fully understand what the law means, they are less likely to speak openly and frankly with their patients,” said Hanna Kischnik. , an attorney for the ACLU of Northern California.

The law states that physicians who provide false information to patients about covid are acting in an unprofessional manner, which could result in disciplinary action from the California Medical Board or California Osteopathic Medical Board.

Supporters of the law tried to crack down about what they think is the most obvious: doctors advertising treatments such as ivermectin, an antiparasitic that has not been proven effective in treating covid and may be dangerous; who exaggerates the risk of vaccination compared to the risk of disease; or who spread unsubstantiated theories about vaccines, including that they can causes infertility P damage DNA.

But there is no such specificity in the law that defines disinformation only as “false information that contradicts modern scientific consensus, that contradicts the standard of medical care.”

Michelle Mello, professor of health law and policy at Stanford University, said the wording was confusing.

“On a subject like covid, science is changing all the time, so what does it mean to talk about scientific consensus?” she asked. “In my opinion, there are many examples of statements that clearly, without any vagueness, fit the definition of the type of behavior that the legislature adheres to. The problem is that there are a lot of other hypothetical things that people can say that clearly don’t violate it.”

Dr. Christine Cassel, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said she expects the law to be enforced only in the most egregious cases. “I trust scientists enough to know where there is a legitimate dispute,” she said.

Kassel’s opinion reflects Newsom’s rationale for signing the law, despite being aware of the potential problems with free speech. “I am confident,” he wrote in his message to legislators, “that the discussion of new ideas or treatments, including the subsequent risks and benefits, does not constitute disinformation or misinformation under the criteria of this bill.”

Plaintiffs in Santa Ana case, two physicians who have sometimes deviated from public health guidelines have appealed Slaughter’s decision allowing the law to remain in place. The case was joined in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals with another case in which a San Diego judge declined to rule on a similar request for a temporary suspension of the law.

Newsom spokesman Brandon Richards said in early February that the administration would not appeal two Sacramento cases in which Shubb issued a narrow injunction. Lawyers for the plaintiffs expected the state to appeal the decision, believing that all four claims would then be decided by an appellate court, providing greater clarity for all parties.

Richard Jaffe, lead attorney in one of the Sacramento cases brought by Kennedy’s Children’s Health Physician and a group called Physicians for Informed Consent, said Newsom’s decision not to appeal “will just increase the level of chaos in terms of who the law applies to.” “.

But the Newsom administration has decided to wait for the appeals court to rule on the decisions of the other two judges, who have upheld the law for now.

Janine Younes, New Civil Liberties Alliance lawyer, lead counsel another Sacramento case in which Schubb issued his injunction, Newsom said, perhaps calculating that “you’re in a stronger position to go up on a win than on a loss.”

Newsom’s victory in the appeals court could dampen the impact of the two Sacramento cases, according to Jaffe and others.

Opponents of California’s COVID Disinformation Act are wondering why it’s needed at all, given that medical boards already have the power to punish doctors for unprofessional behavior. However, only about 3% of the nearly 90,000 complaints received by the California Medical Board in a decade resulted in physician disciplinary action. 2021 investigation Los Angeles Times.

This may be good news for physicians, who fear the new law could limit their ability to counsel patients.

“I don’t see medical boards being particularly active about the competence of physicians in general,” Stanford’s Mello said. “You have to be really bad to get their attention.”

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