California has repealed a misinformation law that restricted the advice doctors could give patients about COVID-19, bowing to mounting legal pressure.
The legislation was signed into law in September 2022 and took effect in January. It attempts to define disinformation on COVID as “unprofessional conduct” and empowers the Medical Board of California to revoke the licenses of doctors who diverge from “contemporary scientific consensus.”
A federal judge halted the law in January pending court challenges, and it’s unclear if officials are enforcing it.
Over the weekend, California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed a bill in the state Senate that repealed the section of the state’s Business and Professions Code that contained the law, according to a post on Saturday on the governor’s website without comment on the action. The cancellation should take effect in January, one year after the law goes into effect.
Attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center, a nonprofit law firm in Chicago that argued against the legislation in the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on July 17, announced its withdrawal on Monday.
“We are pleased that California repealed this bill before it spread to other states, and we are proud to have defended our clients’ First Amendment rights,” said Jacob Huebert, president of the Liberty Justice Center.
The Washington Times has reached out to the governor’s office for comment.
In a statement signed that was added to the law on September 30, 2022, Mr. But he acknowledged that the legislators have done it carefully to deal with abuses and entrusted its interpretation to the Medical Board of California.
The law, he wrote, “is almost exclusively tailored to apply only in extreme instances where a licensee acts with malicious intent or clearly deviates from the required standard of care while directly associated with of a patient under their care.”
Many California doctors disagreed and challenged the board’s right to explain the treatment. They filed three separate lawsuits against state officials to overturn the law in October, November and December 2022.
Dr. Tracy Hoeg, Ram Duriseti, Aaron Kheriaty, Pete Mazolewski and Azadeh Khatibi argued in a November 2022 suit that the law interfered with their ability to provide patients with timely advice as new variants of COVID emerged. . The New Civil Liberties Alliance, a public interest law firm, represents them in the Eastern District of California.
Senior US District Judge William B. Shubb, an appointee of President George HW Bush, granted them a preliminary injunction against the law in a January 25 ruling.
“Governor Newsom and the state legislature saw the writing on the wall after Judge Shubb granted a preliminary injunction in January.” Jenin Younes, an NCLA attorney involved in the case, said Monday.
The Liberty Justice Center filed the first lawsuit against the law on October 4, 2022 — a few days after it was signed by Ms. Newsom to become law — in the Central District of California.
Dr. Mark McDonald, a psychiatrist in Los Angeles, and Jeff Barke, a primary care physician in Orange County, argued in that complaint that the law violated their constitutional right to free speech and the spirit of scientific inquiry.
In statements on Monday, the two doctors expressed mixed feelings about their legal victory.
“What a shame it takes precious resources of time, money and stress to preserve our constitutional rights to free speech and medical freedom,” said Dr. Boat.
“We need real accountability, or it will happen again,” added Dr. McDonald.