Medical Boards Get Pushback as They Try to Punish Doctors for COVID Misinformation
Medical boards around the country have sanctioned eight physicians in the past year for spreading COVID-related misinformation, but in some cases there has been political backlash as well. Tennessee and North Dakota have limited state medical boards' powers, and legislators in 10 more states have now introduced similar legislation. Additionally, some state boards do not have the legal tools to discipline providers who share unreliable information on social media, asserting the precedents in their states for unprofessional or unethical behavior apply more specifically to actions or speech made directly to their patients. Medical misinformation has affected the public debate about vaccines, and it has created a market for unproven treatments against COVID-19, such as ivermectin. A recent study projected there was almost $2.5 million in COVID-related ivermectin prescriptions in just one week. Penalties for the eight sanctioned physicians range from suspension to revocation of licenses. However, some of them are hitting back. One Houston doctor whose hospital suspended her privileges after she allegedly spread misinformation about vaccine policies over social media posted on Facebook that she was suing the hospital for financial data. She claimed the institution had turned a profit from its administration of COVID vaccines, and she also promoted a cocktail that included high-dose steroids, ivermectin, and vitamin C. Although claims about supposed treatments and cures are nothing new, the prevalence of social media means that "any lone voice suddenly has the ability to get tens of thousands of followers, or hundreds of thousands, for an outrageous comment," notes Federation of State Medical Boards CEO Humayun Chaudhry.
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