President Joe Biden may have declared the pandemic "over," but someone needs to tell the state of California. A bill sitting on Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk would levy career-ending penalties on doctors deemed guilty of spreading so-called "misinformation" related to COVID-19. If enacted, this law has the potential to destroy the medical profession and stifle innovation from coast to coast.
The bill in question, AB 2098, would allow the Medical Board of California to revoke a doctor’s license to practice medicine in the state for expressing an opinion "contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care." The problem is that "contemporary scientific consensus" has fluctuated wildly over the past two years.
One year ago, President Biden declared COVID-19 as, "a pandemic of the unvaccinated." Earlier that summer, he had stated, "You're not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations." Now the bar has been lowered to they are "preventing severe illness."
Who can forget the whiplash on masks? In the early days, we were told to "STOP BUYING MASKS!" because "they are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching Coronavirus." On day one of his presidency, Biden ordered a mask mandate for federal workers and on federal land. Last summer, Biden said "if you’re vaccinated, you shouldn’t wear a mask," before reversing course months later and urging Americans to mask up.
Or take Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical advisor. In July 2020, he disagreed with medical professionals that the predominant form of transmission was via airborne spread. Instead, he said there was not "a lot of definitive evidence." Further, the CDC flip-flopped on the subject for months, and the World Health Organization waffled for two years before acknowledging the facts.
Fauci was wrong. But if these debates had been playing out underneath the shadow of the proposed California law, the doctors and scientists who were right about the data would have faced a choice between silence and persecution at the hands of government censors. The truth would languish, science would suffer, and more people would get sick or die.
By enacting a law that forces medicals professionals to follow "contemporary scientific consensus," California is effectively saying it has all the answers in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. While we in the United States are vaccinating toddlers, Denmark has restricted anyone under 30 from receiving the Moderna vaccine and no longer recommends COVID-19 vaccination to low-risk individuals under 50. If a well-meaning Californian did not want to subject themselves or their child to an mRNA vaccine, they would face an unpleasant choice between falling for "misinformation" or moving to Denmark.
Medical knowledge never stops evolving. It is constantly shaped by emerging data and trends. No single doctor – or politician – has a monopoly on good ideas. Society should be encouraging people to come forward with promising new ideas, not threatening to strip their livelihood.
In 1983, Senator Johnson’s infant daughter had corrective surgery at the age of eight months for a serious congenital heart defect. Her life was saved because doctors had the ability to improve open-heart surgical techniques and procedures by practicing medicine. The California law would severely limit future medical advancements like this.
Even avowed Democrats are speaking out against the proposed law. Leana Wen, the former president of Planned Parenthood, warned in her Washington Post op-ed that the, "legislation will have a chilling effect on medical practice, with widespread repercussions that could paradoxically worsen patient care."
What happens in California does not stay in California. Newsom can kill this terrible bill and prevent a hostile takeover of medicine by oppressive government censors. Let’s hope he does the right thing.
Pierre Kory, M.D., is president and chief medical officer of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance.