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Tags: california | covid 19 | doctors | misinformation

Judge Pauses California's COVID-19 Misinformation Law

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By    |   Thursday, 26 January 2023 12:47 PM EST

The enforcement of a new California law that prohibits the spread of COVID-19 misinformation by doctors was paused Wednesday by a federal judge.

According to The Sacramento Bee, Senior Judge William Shubb said the law's definition of "misinformation" was "unconstitutionally vague" under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

A group of doctors and two organizations that are suing state officials over the law in separate actions in the U.S. District Court in Sacramento asked Shubb to halt enforcement of the measure while their cases play out.

Under the law, which took effect Jan. 1, doctors who share false information about COVID-19 treatment options and vaccines with their patients could be disciplined for "unprofessional conduct," regardless of whether they acted deliberately or not.

The law defines misinformation as "false information contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care." Shubb derided that definition as "nonsense" at a hearing on Monday and said in Wednesday's order that it was "grammatically incoherent."

The judge also criticized the phrase "contemporary scientific consensus" in his order, remarking that it does not have an established meaning within the medical field.

"The statute provides no clarity on the term's meaning, leaving open multiple important questions," Shubb wrote, according to the Bee. "For instance, who determines whether a consensus exists to begin with? If a consensus does exist, among whom must the consensus exist (for example practicing physicians, or professional organizations, or medical researchers, or public health officials, or perhaps a combination)?"

He added that the lack of clarity makes it impossible to determine what is prohibited by the new law.

Introduced in the California legislature last February by Democrat Assemblyman Evan Low, the bill, known as AB 2098, states that the "spread of misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines has weakened public confidence and placed lives at serious risk."

It also states that "some of the most dangerous propagators of inaccurate information regarding the COVID-19 vaccines are licensed health care professionals," according to the reporting of major news networks.

Board representatives told the Bee that the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California had not disciplined anyone under the law as of Monday. Doctors could lose their licenses if found to have committed unprofessional conduct.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, D, called the bill "narrowly tailored" when he signed it into law in September and said it only applies to discussions doctors might have with their patients about COVID-19.

Newsom, California Attorney General Rob Bonta and representatives of the state medical board and state osteopathic medical board are being sued in the cases, according to the Bee.

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The enforcement of a new California law that prohibits the spread of COVID-19 misinformation by doctors was paused Wednesday by a federal judge.
california, covid 19, doctors, misinformation
Thursday, 26 January 2023 12:47 PM
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