Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a bill that would punish doctors who spread misinformation about COVID-19 to patients.
AB 2098, introduced by Assemblymember Evan Low, enshrines into state law that licensed physicians and surgeons disseminating or promoting misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19 constitutes unprofessional conduct that should result in disciplinary actions by the Medical Board of California or the Osteopathic Medical Board of California.
According to AB 2098, this bill 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.
Should doctors provide information that is deemed “misinformation, they would be subject to possible disciplinary actions by the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California should they do not adhere to the “approved COVID treatment consensus.” This includes discipline and possible suspension.
According to Governor Newsom’s Signing Message:
To the Members of the California State Assembly:
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.
I am signing this bill because it is narrowly tailored to apply only to those egregious instances in which a licensee is acting with malicious intent or clearly deviating from the required standard of care while interacting directly with a patient under their care.
To be clear, this bi ll does not apply to any speech outside of discussions directly related to COVID-19 treatment within a direct physician patient relationship. I am concerned about the chilling effect other potential laws may have on
physicians and surgeons who need to be able to effectively talk to their patients about the risks and benefits of treatments for a disease that appeared in just the last few years. However, I am confident that discussing emerging ideas or
treatments including the subsequent risks and benefits does not constitute misinformation or disinformation under this bill’s criteria.
COVID-19 treatment and care is rapidly evolving and t h is bi ll allows physicians to discuss both emerging and current treatments in a manner that is unique to each patient and their distctive medical history
The people of the State of California do enact as follows:
The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
Section 2270 is added to the Business and Professions Code, to read:
(a) It shall constitute unprofessional conduct for a physician and surgeon to disseminate misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19, including false or misleading information regarding the nature and risks of the virus, its prevention and treatment; and the development, safety, and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
The provisions of this act are severable. If any provision of this act or its application is held invalid, that invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application.
SB 1018 Will Require Platforms Utilizing Algorithms to Publicly Disclose How They Manipulate Datasets and Support Research; AB 2098 Outlines Unprofessional Conduct for CA Medical Boards to Pursue Disciplinary Action Against Licensed Physicians Dissemin
SACRAMENTO – Today, Senator Dr. Richard Pan and Assemblymember Evan Low introduced Senate Bill 1018 and Assembly Bill 2098 to combat the spread of dangerous COVID-19 misinformation and protect public health. SB 1018, introduced by Senator Dr. Richard Pan, requires online platforms utilizing algorithms to publically report how product features interact with datasets used by algorithms to score or rank content, and requires disclosure of data for legitimate research purposes. AB 2098, introduced by Assemblymember Evan Low, enshrines into state law that licensed physicians and surgeons disseminating or promoting misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19 constitutes unprofessional conduct that should result in disciplinary actions by the Medical Board of California or the Osteopathic Medical Board of California.
Together, both bills effectively work to discourage misinformation, through algorithm transparency for online platforms and requiring platforms share data with researchers, and through accountability for the small number of unethical physicians and surgeons spreading blatant COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation.
Dr. Richard Pan, state senator and pediatrician said, “I introduced Senate Bill 1018 to address the amplification of misinformation and disinformation on online platforms by requiring platforms to publicly disclose how their algorithms work and to share data for research purposes. Ultimately, we shouldn’t have to wait for whistleblowers, like the Facebook whistleblower, to understand how platforms have been negatively influencing our lives, including our ability to stop this pandemic that has not only killed nearly 1 million Americans, but has disabled so many people as well. Transparency will allow the public to make informed decisions, and lawmakers and researchers need this necessary information so we can hold online platforms accountable and also set standards.”
Assemblymember Evan Low said of Assembly Bill 2098, “This bill declares that disinformation and promotion of COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation to the public as unprofessional conduct for licensed physicians and surgeons. Under this law, California Medical Boards will be given the tools necessary to bring discipline actions against a licensee. Due to their specialized knowledge and training, licensed physicians possess a high degree of public trust and therefore must be held to account. 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.”
On January 19, Dr. Pan and six other legislators announced the formation of a legislative Vaccine Work Group to facilitate coordinated action to promote vaccines and science-based public health policy. Previous to today, the group has introduced four bills to help combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and protect public health: SB 866, the Teens Choose Vaccines Act; SB 871, the Keep Schools Open and Safe Act; AB 1797, to modernize California’s Immunization Registry; and, AB 1993, to keep workplaces open and safe.