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Physicians react: Should docs lose their licenses for spreading false COVID information?


Doctors providing “fraudulent” COVID-19 information became a hot-button issue for physicians responding to Medscape’s recent article, "Shouldn’t Doctors Who Spread False COVID-19 Information Lose Their Licenses?”

COVID-19 safety recommendations are set by mainstream medical organizations as new information becomes available, but some doctors consistently oppose advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other medical authorities. These physicians often promote off-label, unapproved use of medications for COVID-19 and/or contradict mainstream safety guidelines such as vaccines, masks, and social distancing.

Some medical organizations are concerned that these doctors are hampering efforts to control the highly contagious coronavirus and are, at worst, placing lives in danger with their contrarian views that can spread like wildfire on social media sites. Their words are often used by those who refuse to be vaccinated or wear masks.

State licensing boards have mostly refused to discipline these doctors for making false and/or misleading claims, but as the virus spreads, there are calls to take action against them. However, others worry that such actions would violate free speech and critical thought.

Medscape recently took on the question of whether doctors should lose their licenses for spreading misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19, which spurred a strong response from clinician readers.

Yes, those doctors are doing wrong

Several physicians took a strong stand against their fellow doctors who are spreading misinformation about COVID-19.

One doctor endorsed the idea of removing licenses for spreading misinformation and called for criminal prosecution: “It should certainly be grounds for cancellation of all licensing (after appropriate examination to rule out acute psychotic episodes, dementia, tumor, etc.) and very likely [include] a charge of manslaughter.”

Another health care provider said, “A person who does not accept science should not, of course, be allowed to practice medicine. One who argues publicly that vaccines and masks don’t work should be prosecuted for crimes ranging from reckless endangerment to attempted murder.”

One reader framed COVID-19 misinformers in stark terms: “These men and women are medical prostitutes. Their medical and surgical colleges [should] have a panel to track in-court testimony and the disinformation they spread ...”

“This is malpractice of the worst kind,” said a clinician. “Public health officials and science are quite clear on [the] best practices for safety during a pandemic, which is killing millions. This is a standard of care.”

“Medical Boards should suspend licenses and give the physician a chance to testify [about] the scientific basis for his comments,” added a health care provider. “Boards involve themselves in all kinds of perceived disciplinary infractions. We are in the midst of a lethal pandemic. I would think that would take precedence over many other issues?”

“I do believe that physicians have the responsibility to speak the truth and have scientifically displayed minds,” said a reader. “Not [to] promulgate misleading, false, and/or unverified information.”

“Any physician, who holds a license, should abide [by] government and state regulation,” asserted a doctor. “He should be disciplined by the board for spreading medical/public misinformation since he is creating potential harm to the population.”

One specialist insisted that “state boards do not do enough to restrict/limit the practice of physicians touting questionable therapies.”

“Any doctor who spreads false information about Covid is hurting our country, our individuals, and our economy and leading to needless deaths,” asserted a physician. “However, there are uncertainties, and where those exist, physicians [should] simply say ‘it is unknown.’”


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