Doctors fear California law aimed at COVID-19 misinformation could do more harm than good – Los Angeles Times

by | Oct 6, 2022 | COVID-19

California doctors will soon be subject to disciplinary action if they give their patients information about COVID-19 that they know to be false or misleading.On its face, the new state law sounds like a clear blow to the forces that have fueled skepticism about life-saving vaccines, encouraged anxious people to trust discredited and dangerous drugs like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, and reduced face masks to symbols of political partisanship. The measure was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last week and goes into effect on Jan. 1.But critics of the law, including many mainstream doctors who have advocated passionately for masks and vaccines, say it could end up curbing well-intentioned conversations between patients and physicians about a disease that’s still changing from one month to the next.Advertisement“There’s clear misinformation that’s happening that’s as black and white as you can get. But there’s a lot of gray out there too,” said Dr. Eric Widera, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco who specializes in geriatrics. Newsletter Get our free Coronavirus Today newsletter Sign up for the latest news, best stories and what they mean for you, plus answers to your questions. You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times. With COVID-19, he said, “the standard of care has changed a lot in 2½ years.” Earlier in the pandemic, he recorded instructional videos for his children’s school on how to properly wear cloth face masks. Today such masks are largely dismissed as ineffective. That’s a nonclinical example of a truth about the evolution of medical research, Widera said: “What was misinformation one day is the current scientific thinking another day.”The new law applies only to conversations between patients and their doctors about the patient’s care. It will not cover, for example, any fringe claims that a COVID-19 skeptic with a medical degree might air on social media or at a public rally. An attempt to limit a physician’s public pontifications would probably not survive a 1st Amendment challenge in court, a legislative analysis of the bill found.In his signing statement, Newsom acknowledged that he was “concerned about the chilling effect” of legislating doctor-patient conversations.But this law, he wrote, “is narrowly tailored to apply only to those egregious instances in which a licensee is acting with malicious intent or clearly deviating from the required standard of care while interacting directly with a patient under their care.”The text of the measure doesn’t spell out what constitutes an egregious instance, or what metrics will be used to determine malicious intent.Investigating and adjudicating an alleged violation by traditional physicians will be the responsibility of …

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