Medical boards under pressure to discipline doctors pushing false claims of Covid-19

They decried COVID-19 as a hoax, promoted unproven treatments, and made false claims about the vaccine, including that the shots magnetize the human body.

The purveyors of this disinformation are not obscure figures operating in the dark corners of the Internet. This is a small, vocal group of physicians practicing medicine in communities across the country.

Today, the medical boards are more and more in a hurry to act. Public health organizations have called on them to take a tougher line in disciplining doctors, including potentially revoking their licenses. The surge comes as the pandemic enters a second winter and deaths in the United States exceed 800,000.

At least a dozen regulators in states such as Oregon, Rhode Island, Maine and Texas have recently issued sanctions against some doctors, but many of the more prolific proponents of COVID-19 lies have always spotless medical licenses.

Precruiting doctors is no easy task for boards that were created long before social media. Their investigations tend to proceed slowly, taking months or even years, and many of their proceedings are private.

“Just because they’re doctors, it’s no different than if someone called you up pretending to be the IRS trying to steal your money,” said Brian Castrucci, President and CEO of the Foundation. Beaumont. “It’s a scam, and we protect Americans from scams.”

Castrucci’s public health organization and No License For Disinformation, which fights against fake medical information, released a report last week highlighting some of the cases. The report was released a week after the Federation of State Medical Boards released an investigation that found 67% of commissions saw an increase in complaints about misinformation about COVID-19.

This figure “is a sign of the magnitude of the problem,” said Dr Humayun Chaudhry, president and CEO of the federation.

Dr Kencee Graves, a doctor at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, said one of his patients decided not to get the vaccine after hearing misinformation from a doctor.

“She was led astray” by someone she should have trusted, said Graves, describing the patient as a “very, very gentle elderly woman.”

The woman then admitted her mistake, stating, “I realize now that I am wrong, but this is what I thought I should listen to. “

There is broad support for cracking down on these doctors, according to a national survey conducted by the Beaumont Foundation. In the survey of 2,200 adults, 91% of those polled said that doctors were not allowed to intentionally disseminate false information.

But policing doctors is no easy task for the tips that were created long before social media. Their investigations tend to proceed slowly, taking months or even years, and many of their proceedings are private.

Castrucci has said it is time for them to “move on” but it is difficult. This month, the Tennessee Medical Licensing Board removed a recently passed disinformation policy from its website under pressure from a GOP state legislator and a new law imposing sprawling restrictions. related to viruses.

Even individual board members have been targeted. In California, state medical board chair Kristina Lawson said a group of anti-vaccine activists harassed her at her home and followed her to her office last week. She said the people identified themselves as representing America’s primary care physicians, a group that criticizes the COVID-19 vaccine and spreads misinformation.

Group leader Dr Simone Gold, who was arrested in the Jan. 6 uprising on the United States Capitol, tweeted this month to her nearly 390,000 subscribers that “Nurses know patients of Covid die from government funded hospital protocols (Remdesivir, intubation), NOT from Covid.

Gold remains a licensed physician in California, although his certification in emergency medicine expired last year. Complaints and investigations are not public in the state, so it is not clear if she is facing them.

In Idaho, the state medical association was so frustrated with pathologist Dr. Ryan Cole’s promotion of ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug, that it filed a complaint with the state medical board. Susie Keller, chief executive of the association, said she believed it was the first time the group had sought to file a lawsuit against one of their own. Many doctors, she explained, are fed up.

The widespread lies have “actually verbally abused our doctors and nurses” from patients who believe the false information is true, Keller said.

Cole did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press, but his professional voicemail said he was “unable to prescribe drugs or issue vaccines or mask exemption letters.” Voicemail also directed callers to the website of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, a group that advocates for ivermectin.

Under Idaho law, all inquiries into doctors are conducted in private, unless there is a formal hearing. The Washington State Medical Council, meanwhile, is investigating five complaints about Cole, spokeswoman Stephanie Mason said.

America’s Frontline Doctors is a group that criticizes the COVID-19 vaccine and spreads misinformation. It has 390,000 subscribers.

Investigating disinformation is “very difficult as many actions go undocumented,” she wrote in an email. Many examples “take place quietly in an office”.

In Ohio, the state medical board automatically renewed Sherri Tenpenny’s license in September after the Cleveland-based osteopathic doctor testified before a state House health committee this summer that vaccines COVID-19 cause magnetism.

The vaccinated “can put a wrench to their forehead; it sticks, ”Tenpenny said.

Jerica Stewart, spokesperson for the state medical council, said a recent license renewal does not prevent the council from taking action.

“Making a false, fraudulent, deceptive or deceptive statement” is grounds for discipline, said Stewart.

In Texas, Dr. Stella Immanuel appeared in a video promoting the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine. “You don’t need masks. There is a cure.

In October, the Texas Medical Board ordered her to pay $ 500 and improve her consent procedures, as it discovered that she had prescribed hydroxychloroquine to a COVID-19 patient without a proper explanation of the potential consequences for the patient. health, according to records.

Emmanuel did not respond to a Facebook message from the AP, and the medical office where she works did not respond to an email.

Dr Nick Sawyer, who heads No License For Disinformation, described the action against Emmanuel as a “pat on the wrist” and accused the country’s medical boards of “not doing their job of protecting public health” .

He said he saw the damage with his own eyes while practicing emergency medicine in Sacramento, California. He said a 70-year-old diabetic patient this month insisted she did not have COVID-19 despite testing positive, then asked for ivermectin and withdrew against advice medical when the drug has been refused.

“She said, ‘If I have COVID, you gave it to me,'” he recalls, attributing the woman’s resistance to doctors spreading misinformation. “It is killing us.”

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