Newsom Signs Legislation Allowing Doctors in California to Face Discipline for 'Misinformation'

Newsom Signs Legislation Allowing Doctors in California to Face Discipline for 'Misinformation'
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a bill signing ceremony in San Francisco, Calif. on Feb. 9, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Sarah Le
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation into law on Sept. 30 that allows the state medical board to discipline physicians for "misinformation" or "disinformation" related to COVID-19.

According to the law, misinformation means "false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care," while disinformation is "misinformation that the licensee deliberately disseminated with malicious intent or an intent to mislead."

Newsom gave his reasoning for signing the legislation, AB 2098, which was introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low.

"I am signing this bill because it is narrowly tailored to apply only to those egregious instances in which a licensee is acting with malicious intent or clearly deviating from the required standard of care while interacting directly with a patient under their care," he wrote in his signing message.

Newsom said the law only applies to physicians' speech with patients during discussions directly related to COVID-19 treatment.

"I am concerned about the chilling effect other potential laws may have on physicians and surgeons who need to be able to effectively talk to their patients about the risks and benefits of treatments for a disease that appeared in just the last few years," he wrote. "However, I am confident that discussing emerging ideas or treatments including the subsequent risks and benefits does not constitute misinformation or disinformation under this bill's criteria."

 The California State Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
The California State Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Opposition to the Legislation

At noon on Sept. 30, a group of doctors, patients, and civil rights attorneys had gathered at the Capitol building in Sacramento, California, to ask Newsom to veto the legislation.
Dr. Len Saputo, president of the organization Physicians and Patients Reclaiming Medicine, hosted a press conference at the Capitol. He said the law will fundamentally alter how physicians practice medicine in California.

"If [Newsom] doesn't veto [SB] 2098, medicine will be changed forever. ... We will not have the right to counsel our patients in certain areas, because it will be prohibited by law," said Saputo, who's based in Walnut Creek, California.

Another California doctor in attendance was Dr. Michael Huang, who said the situation in California for many doctors has already become overly restrictive and that the new law would only make things worse.

He spoke to the group about one of his patients, a San Jose firefighter who was required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and afterward lost 50 percent of his exercise capacity, according to Huang. The firefighter was put on unpaid leave, but he was then required to get a booster vaccine dose. He said the firefighter came to see him for a medical exemption.

"Please help me. I don't want to get hurt again," the firefighter said, according to Huang.

He said he has been able to help thousands of patients like these who had a valid medical reason to skip the COVID-19 vaccine, and they were able to keep their jobs or go to school even though the vaccine was required.

"I'm here to protect your health," Huang said. "I'm here to make sure that you will not be hurt."

He's now under investigation and in jeopardy of losing his medical license for alleged "unprofessional conduct." This followed guidance issued by the medical board in August 2021 that physicians could be subject to disciplinary action for granting mask exemptions or other exemptions inappropriately.

However, Huang contends that he hasn't acted inappropriately and that his exemptions were valid.

“There are very few medical professionals that are willing to give medical exemptions because they are afraid,” he told The Epoch Times in December.

'No Absolute Truth'

According to a previous interview with Los Angeles-based Dr. Syed Haider, the new law is also expected to target doctors who recommend or prescribe off-label medications, such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, to their patients for COVID-19.

“Myself and other doctors from all over the world have had incredible results with off-label protocols, including ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, budesonide, and a number of other protocols,” Haider told The Epoch Times in May.

Because of this, he's been reported to four state medical boards by pharmacists that he says “don’t like filling ivermectin prescriptions.” He was forced to hire a lawyer to help protect his medical license.

"In any scientific field or endeavor, there is no absolute truth," Haider said. "We’re always getting closer to the truth, but we have never arrived at a final truth in medicine. There always has to be room for debate."

Patricia Tolson contributed to this report.
Sarah Le is an editor for The Epoch Times in Southern California. She lives with her husband and two children in Los Angeles.