As an emergency physician at Stanford and Mills-Peninsula hospitals who has treated hundreds of COVID-19 patients, Dr. Ram Duriseti recalled bucking a prevailing treatment strategy early in the pandemic of rushing the sickest patients onto ventilators not only to help them breathe but to reduce spread of the virus.

The medical world has since backed away from such aggressive use of ventilators, Duriseti said, but he fears in the near future his professional instincts could cost him his medical license under a new California law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed at the end of September. Set to take effect next year, it bars doctors from spreading misinformation about COVID-19.

Duriseti has joined four other California physicians in filing a federal lawsuit against Newsom and the state medical board arguing the law violates doctors’ constitutional First Amendment free speech and Fourteenth Amendment due process rights.

“Rarely does a state legislature pass a bill that is so obviously unconstitutional,” the complaint says. “Even more rarely does a governor sign that bill into law.”

It’s unclear how the new law could impact doctors’ bedside decisions in crucial moments of care. During the height of the pandemic, the medical community and public health experts raised an alarm as misinformation about vaccines and treatments proliferated across the internet, polarizing the public and peddling discredited remedies like hydroxychloroquine to COVID deniers.

The law’s author, Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, didn’t answer requests for comment about the lawsuit last week. He told fellow lawmakers this year the bill is “crucial to addressing the amplification of misinformation and disinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Licensed physicians, doctors, and surgeons possess a high degree of public trust and therefore must be held accountable for the information they spread,” Low said in comments to the state Assembly about his bill, AB 2098, co-sponsored by the California Medical Association. “Providing patients with accurate, science-based information on the pandemic and COVID-19 vaccinations is imperative to protecting public health.”

Newsom, in signing the bill, said he understood concerns about the “chilling effect” it “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.”

But the governor added he was satisfied it was “narrowly tailored to apply only to those egregious instances in which a licensee is acting with malicious intent or clearly deviating from the required …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


Doctors sue to block California COVID disinformation law

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