California Quietly Repeals ‘Medical Misinformation’ Law Designed to Punish Doctors

by Michael Nevradakis, Ph.D., Childrens Health Defense:

Children’s Health Defense supported 1 of the 4 lawsuits challenging Assembly Bill 2098, which established that doctors who give “false” information about COVID-19 to patients were engaging in unprofessional conduct that could subject them to disciplinary action by the Medical Board of California or the Osteopathic Medical Board of California.

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California lawmakers last week dealt a final blow to the state’s controversial “medical misinformation” law, which aimed to punish doctors for spreading COVID-19 “misinformation” or “disinformation.”

Assembly Bill 2098 (AB 2098) was quietly put to rest on Sept. 14 when lawmakers voted 35-1 to pass another bill, Senate Bill 815 (SB 815), which included a clause that repealed AB 2098. SB 815 reforms how the Medical Board of California must address patient complaints.

Commenting on the news, Children’s Health Defense (CHD) President Mary Holland said:

“The California legislature likely saw the writing on the wall — that their statute would be found unconstitutional — so they attempted to quietly scuttle it. This is an example of how legal wins can lead to legislative wins, and this is definitely a win when doctors can practice medicine freely.”

AB 2098, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in Sept. 2022, took effect on Jan. 1.

However, less than a month later, a federal judge blocked the bill when he granted an injunction requested by CHD, in relation to CHD’s lawsuit challenging the bill.

CHD attorneys filed the suit on Dec. 1, 2022, against California Attorney General Rob Bonta and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California Executive Officer Erika Calderon on behalf of Dr. LeTrinh Hoang, Physicians for Informed Consent and CHD-California Chapter.

Another suit, filed by five doctors in January 2023 against Newsom, claimed the law violated the doctors’ First Amendment rights.

Until last week’s passage of SB 815, the “medical misinformation” law was stuck in “legal limbo.”

AB 2098 established that doctors who give “false” information about COVID-19 to patients were engaging in unprofessional conduct, which could subject them to disciplinary action by the Medical Board of California or the Osteopathic Medical Board of California.

“Misinformation” was defined in the law as “false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, while the law directly concerned speech between doctors and patients, it “did not apply to any fringe claims aired in public forums such as social media or the Capitol steps.” A legislative analysis determined that “Such provisions would probably not survive a 1st Amendment challenge in court,” the L.A. Times added.

Attorney Richard Jaffe, who represented CHD in its lawsuit, said the repeal is expected to soon be signed into law by Newsom and will likely go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

According to Kim Mack Rosenberg, acting general counsel for CHD, “It is my understanding that the bill was sent to the Office of Engrossing and Enrolling — a final legislative step before going to the governor’s office.”

Jaffe called the passage of SB 815 “a big win for proponents of free speech, and especially for people who want to be able to receive candid information and advice from their physicians, even if the information is not consistent with the mainstream COVID narrative.”

“This action by the California legislature,” Jaffe told The Defender, “protects the doctor/patient relationship, which is a very good thing.” However, he said, this does not mean doctors who may challenge the mainstream narrative are completely out of the woods yet.

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