A US judge on Wednesday blocked the implementation of a California law aimed at punishing doctors who give patients “misinformation or disinformation" related to COVID. He's considering a pair of lawsuits challenging the law on free speech grounds.
The law, known as Assembly Bill 2098, defines false information as anything "contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus" — including information about the risks of the virus, prevention, treatment methods, and vaccines.
This law is unconstitutional and the judge is right to block it. It violates Americans' right to freedom of speech and expression, and given there's no legal definition of "contemporary scientific consensus," it's unclear what exactly physicians can be penalized for. Doctors who give harmful advice to patients are already subject to malpractice lawsuits and discipline under existing state law; all Assembly Bill 2098 does is stifle important scientific debate around COVID.
Spreading COVID vaccine and treatment misinformation is medical malpractice and should be punished accordingly. Laws should exist to hold physicians accountable and make sure they don't spread COVID misinformation. Disinformation is a public health threat that existed long before this pandemic and will likely last long after. Unless these physicians are held accountable, the trust of the entire medical profession is in jeopardy.