Medical associations are under pressure to discipline doctors who make false Covid-19 claims

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They have denounced COVID-19 as a hoax, promoted unproven treatments, and made false claims about the vaccine, including the fact that the gunshots magnetize the human body.

The providers of this misinformation are not shadow figures who operate in the dark corners of the Internet. They are a small but vocal group of doctors who practice in communities across the country.

Medical associations are now under increasing pressure to act. Public health organizations have urged them to take a tougher stance by disciplining doctors and potentially revoking their licenses. The push comes as the pandemic enters a second winter and the death toll in the U.S. tops 800,000.

At least a dozen regulatory agencies in states like Oregon, Rhode Island, Maine, and Texas recently sanctioned some doctors, but many of the most prolific proponents of COVID-19 falsehoods still have flawless medical licenses.

P.Monitoring doctors is no easy task for boards that were created long before social media. Your investigations are usually slow, lasting months or even years, and many of their proceedings are private.

“Just because they’re doctors is no different than when someone calls you and claims you’re the IRS trying to steal your money,” said Brian Castrucci, President and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation. “It’s a scam and we’re protecting Americans from scams.”

Castrucci’s public health organization and No License For Disinformation, which combats false medical information, released a report last week highlighting some of the cases. The report came a week after the Federation of State Medical Boards released a survey that found 67% of boards had seen an increase in complaints about COVID-19 misinformation.

This number “is a sign of how widespread the topic has become,” said Dr. Humayun Chaudhry, President and CEO of the Association.

Dr. Kencee Graves, a doctor at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, said one of her patients chose not to get the vaccine after hearing misinformation from a doctor.

“She was misled” by someone she should have trusted, Graves said, describing the patient as a “very, very sweet elderly lady.”

The woman later admitted her mistake and said, “I realize now that I was wrong, but I thought I should listen to her.”

According to a nationwide survey by the de Beaumont Foundation, there is widespread support for cracking down on such doctors. In the survey of 2,200 adults, 91% of respondents said that doctors do not have the right to intentionally disseminate false information.

But police doctors are not an easy task for boards that were created long before social media. Your investigations are usually slow, lasting months or even years, and many of their proceedings are private.

Castrucci said it was time to “develop” but it was a challenge. This month, in response to pressure from a GOP state legislature and a new law imposing sweeping virus-related restrictions, the Tennessee Medical Licensing Board removed a recently passed misinformation policy from its website.

Even individual board members have been targeted. In California, state medical committee president Kristina Lawson said a group of anti-vaccine activists followed her home and followed her to her office last week. She said people identified themselves as representatives of the American Frontline Doctors, a group that criticizes the COVID-19 vaccine and spreads misinformation.

The leader of the group, Dr. Simone Gold, who was arrested during the January 6th uprising in the US Capitol, tweeted this month to nearly 390,000 followers that “Nurses know that Covid patients die from government-subsidized hospital protocols (remdesivir, intubation). , NOT from Covid. “

Gold continues to be a licensed health practitioner in California even though her emergency medicine certification expired last year. Complaints and investigations are not public in the state, so it is unclear if she faces any.

In Idaho, the state medical association was so frustrated by the advertisement for pathologist Dr. Ryan Cole for the anti-parasite drug Ivermectin for filing a complaint with the State Medical Association. Susie Keller, the association’s executive director, said she believed it was the first time the group had taken action against one of their own. Many doctors, she said, are fed up.

The spread of falsehoods “has actually resulted in our doctors and nurses being exposed to verbal attacks” from patients who believe the falsified information is true, Keller said.

Cole did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press, but his labor voicemail said he was “unable to prescribe medication or issue exemptions for vaccines or masks”. The voicemail also directed callers to the website of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, a group campaigning for ivermectin.

Under Idaho law, all medical examinations are conducted privately, unless a formal hearing takes place. The Washington State Medical Association is investigating five complaints about Cole, spokeswoman Stephanie Mason said.

ONEMerica’s Frontline Doctors are a group that criticizes the COVID-19 vaccine and spreads misinformation. It has 390,000 followers.

Investigating misinformation is “very difficult because many actions are not documented,” she wrote in an email. Many examples “happen quietly in an office”.

In Ohio, the state medical board automatically renewed Sherri Tenpenny’s license in September after the Cleveland-based osteopathic doctor testified before a state health committee this summer that COVID-19 vaccines cause magnetism.

Vaccine recipients “can put a key on their forehead; it sticks, ”said Tenpenny.

Jerica Stewart, a spokeswoman for the state’s medical committee, said a recent license renewal did not prevent the committee from taking action.

“Making a false, fraudulent, misleading or misleading statement” is a cause for disciplinary action, Stewart said.

In Texas, Dr. Stella Immanuel in a video advertising the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. “You don’t need masks. There is a cure. “

In October, the Texas Medical Board asked her to pay $ 500 and improve her consent process for prescribing hydroxychloroquine to a COVID-19 patient with no adequate education about the potential health consequences, records show.

Immanuel didn’t respond to a Facebook message from the AP, and the doctor’s office she works at didn’t respond to an email.

Dr. Nick Sawyer, director of No License For Disinformation, described the action against Immanuel as a “slap on the wrist” and accused the country’s medical bodies of “failing to do their job of protecting public health.”

He said he saw the damage firsthand while practicing emergency medicine in Sacramento, California. He said a diabetic in her 70s only insisted this month that she had no COVID-19 despite testing positive, then called for ivermectin and checked out against medical advice when the drug was denied.

“She said, ‘If I have COVID, you gave it to me,'” he recalled, blaming doctors for spreading misinformation for the woman’s resistance. “It’s killing us.”

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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