In order to strike a balance between free speech and public health, the Legislature of California on Monday gave a green signal to a bill that would enable regulators to punish healthcare experts for imparting false information about COVID-19 vaccinations and treatments.
Suppose Gov. Gavin Newsom signs the legislation. In that case, it will make the state the first to try to legislate a solution to a problem that the American Medical Association, along with other experts, says has aggravated the impact of the pandemic, leading to various deaths and unrequired hospitalizations.
As “unprofessional conduct,” the law can suspend or revoke a doctor’s license to practice medicine in the state. While the legislation has voiced concerns over freedom of speech, the bill introducers say the harm caused by false information demands incompetent practitioners accountable.
If enacted, the law is likely to face a legal challenge. However, Governor Newsom has not yet taken any public position on it.
California’s response follows a warning that the National Federation of State Medical Boards gave last year that licensing boards should become more stringent towards doctors who share false information. The American Medical Association also remarked that misleading the public violates the code of ethics that licensed doctors agree to follow.