Back in 2018, before anyone had heard of Covid-19, Dictionary.com designated “misinformation” as its word of the year. “Misinformation” was defined as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.”
It goes without saying that the spread of misinformation has accelerated since those pre-pandemic days.
Condemning the spreading of false information
The danger of misinformation about the virus and vaccines spread by health care professionals recently compelled the California Medical Association to reiterate a condemnation of the “dramatic increase in the dissemination of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and disinformation by physicians . . . on social media platforms, online and in the media” issued by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB).
Vaccine misinformation disseminated by doctors contravenes their ethical and professional responsibilities, the FSMB said. Spreading false vaccine information also puts a physician at risk of disciplinary action that includes a suspension or even a revocation of their medical license.
“Due to their specialized knowledge and training, licensed physicians possess a high degree of public trust and therefore have a powerful platform in society, whether they recognize it or not,” the FSMB said. Health care professionals have an obligation to “share information that is factual, scientifically grounded and consensus-driven for the betterment of public health.”
FSMB’s declaration received a joint statement of support from the American Board of Family Medicine, the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Pediatrics. “We also want all physicians certified by our Boards to know that such unethical or unprofessional conduct may prompt their respective Board to take action that could put their certification at risk,” the organizations said.
Stages of the disciplinary process
The Medical Board of California’s disciplinary process in this type of matter is likely to begin with a patient complaint or peer review report. The process will include an investigation of the alleged unprofessional conduct and interviews of the physician, the complainant, witnesses, etc., followed by a medical board accusation and a hearing at the Office of Administrative Hearings.
If needed, the finding can be appealed. It should be noted that disciplined California physicians can also request reinstatement of their revoked license or an early end to licensure probation.