Bill AB 2098 aims to reduce the sharing of COVID-19 misinformation by physicians. Ironically, it is in the midst of a misinformation campaign about what it is actually about. Certain pundits claim the bill makes it illegal for physicians to disagree with the politicians who created it and that First Amendment rights are being infringed upon.
However, as one physician said: “The word misinformation… is against science. Science is not about consensus. It is about challenging. It is about saying existing dogma doesn’t work.” There is a misconception that the government
is deciding on what the correct medical information is rather than the medical community.
Bill AB 2098 designates “… the dissemination of misinformation or disinformation related to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus or ‘COVID-19’ as unprofessional conduct.” It also notes that disinformation is misinformation that is “… deliberately disseminated with malicious intent or an intent to mislead.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a parallel “info Demic” has plagued public health measures, eroded confidence in vaccination, promoted invalidated treatments, and denied the pandemic’s existence. This has led to unnecessary morbidity and mortality from COVID-19.
So, when someone argues that stemming the flow of misinformation in healthcare is somehow unscientific, I question their understanding of science. Misinformation is false information, and AB 2098 identifies it as contradictory to “contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care.”
In medicine, we operate under standards of care that are outlined by scientific evidence: evidence-based practice. If there is not enough evidence to advocate for one measure or another, expert opinion and consensus are relied upon until scientific studies support one position or another. With more knowledge, standards of care change.
I don’t find extreme deviations from standards of care or lone voices promoting non-scientific measures particularly heroic. Sure, there were giants in scientific history who proved everyone wrong. But, during a pandemic, we have to use the evidence available at the moment. As evidence builds to support one healthcare precept or an opposing one, the medical community pivots. Why would COVID-19 be any different?
AB 2098 focuses on extreme deviation from scientific consensus. AB 2098 supports healthcare professionals who are trying to maintain the integrity of medical practice and prevent the further propagation of the COVID-19 pandemic.