Federal court blocks California’s new medical misinformation law

Federal court blocks California’s new medical misinformation law

Federal court blocks California's new medical misinformation law

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SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge in California has temporarily blocked enforcement of a new state law allowing regulators to punish doctors for disseminating false or misleading information about Covid-19 vaccinations and treatments to their patients.


The law, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last year, was intended to combat the waves of misinformation that have occurred during the pandemic.

Although the law’s wording was narrowly tailored, Judge William B. Shubb of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California ruled Wednesday that its definitions of disinformation and uncertainty about its application were “unconstitutionally unconstitutional.” waves”.

The case is one of two legal challenges the law faces, the first of its kind in the nation to try to resolve an issue that the U.S. Surgeon General, American Medical Association and others say has cost illnesses and wasted lives.

In December, another California Central District judge denied an injunction in a similar case. The split verdicts increase the likelihood that the law’s fate may ultimately be decided at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

“I think the judge saw the law for what it was: an attempt to silence doctors who disagree” with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other regulatory bodies, said Jenin Younes, an attorney for the New Civil Liberties Alliance in Washington. who represented five doctors who filed the lawsuit.

Judge Shubb, who was appointed by President George HW Bush in 1990, wrote in his ruling that he did not consider whether the law violated First Amendment free speech protections. Instead, he found that the law’s provisions violated the plaintiffs’ due process rights under the 14th Amendment.

The law expanded the power of the Medical Board of California, which authorizes physicians, to designate the dissemination of false or misleading medical information to patients as “unprofessional conduct.” This could result in the suspension or revocation of a physician’s license to practice in the state.

Judge Shubb ruled that the definition of misinformation – “false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care” – could have a chilling effect on doctors’ interactions with their patients. He granted a preliminary injunction to block the law, pending a full hearing of the complaint.

One of the plaintiffs, Aaron Kheriaty, a psychiatrist who has challenged many government policies that have emerged during the pandemic, said in an interview on Thursday that the law was too rigid, especially given the changing understanding of the best how to deal with a pandemic like this. .

“Today’s quote-unquote misinformation is tomorrow’s standard of care,” he said.

Governor Newsom’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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