A February resolution entered in California’s state legislature gives broad powers to the state’s medical board to investigate and punish doctors whose advice and treatment during the pandemic varies from the “applicable standard of care.” This type of vague “disinformation” authority over physicians who dare to voice alternative options includes actions that can take away a medical license.
California’s attempt to reign in “misinformation” goes against everything a young physician should be taught in medical school. It’s important to be objective with regards to the current conventional wisdom and to question it when appropriate. If we didn’t have this freedom, medical progress wouldn’t move at the pace needed to meet today’s challenges. California wants to “cancel” a healthcare professional’s right to free thinking by creating a censor. Worse; a censor with the power to ruin careers.
If today’s practicing physicians in California fail to toe the conventional dogma, they will suffer the penalty. This is a risk young doctors, many with spouses and children to support, will be reluctant to take. They will feel forced to follow the straight and very narrow path, even if they believe that path to not be in their patients’ best interest.
Yes, some doctors may be incompetent, even negligent. Some may have opinions that aren’t supported by hard data. Indeed, nothing cures everything, and sweeping medical claims should be viewed with a skeptical eye. Scrutinize these practitioners and take action when necessary to keep patients safe.
What’s going on in California, however, will have implications that are far-reaching. It’ll set a precedent for other state and national organizations. Before long, there will be one way to deal with a particular health issue (not just COVID) and one way only. If it doesn’t work, what are physicians to do? Shrug and walk away?
It’s already started. The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) has just passed a “misinformation” policy recommending that its members crack down on errant physicians. The CEO of the organization has been quoted in the L.A. Times as saying: “…it’s incumbent upon physicians to keep up with what’s permissible, what’s approved, what’s authorized and what’s not.” The FSMB wants to expand its control broadly across social media.
It appears that many media outlets actually welcome a 1984-style medical Ministry of Truth. I don’t. I’m a retired physician who writes about strategies that might save lives in long-term disasters. In these situations, the caregiver’s options are limited due to a lack of a functioning medical infrastructure, so you have to be flexible and think outside the box. This means crossing into uncharted territory sometimes, but something is better than nothing. Theodore Roosevelt once said: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
There’s more than one way to skin a cat or even treat an illness. Developing different ways to handle infections and injuries is the way medicine moves forward. Discouraging free thought in our healthcare providers is a mistake; the kind that, one day down the road, will cost us dearly.
Joe Alton MD
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