CA repeals "atrocious" law intended to curb COVID disinformation

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

CA repeals "atrocious" law intended to curb COVID disinformation

Related tags sb 2098 COVID UNPA misinformation

The United Natural Products Alliance is applauding the move, saying the repeal is a very significant and positive development, particularly for functional and alternative medicine physicians in the state.

The California legislature is undoing a controversial bill that left many divided. Under AB 2098, doctors can be disciplined for spreading misinformation about COVID, defined as "false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care."

Opponents of the bill point out that the law gave them no way to know what falls under "contemporary scientific consensus" and violated their right to free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

Proponents of the law said the bill would curb doctors who tout treatments such as ivermectin​, exaggerate vaccination risks compared to actually getting COVID as well as unfounded theories that claim vaccines cause infertility​ or harm DNA​.

Background 

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed California’s COVID-19 misinformation bill​ last fall, but also cautioned lawmakers​ of “the chilling effect other potential laws may have” on doctors speaking frankly with patients. Since then, the bill has attracted a slew of lawsuits, including several from the ACLU of Northern California, which argued the bill was “dangerously overbroad and confusing.”

Last fall at SupplySide West, Loren Israelsen, founder and president, United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA), spoke to NutraIngredients-USA​ about the controversial bill, and promised to work hard to see that it does not continue.

“I think this is a terrible bill. I think it's unconstitutional. It's hard for me to imagine a bill that would try to control the private communication between a doctor and a patient in the privacy of that relationship,” he said.

Israelsen pointed out that the bill’s incoherent wording is so vague, it could be stretched to fit just about any purpose. 

“As I read this bill, what it basically says is that misinformation is anything that is not consistent with the current consensus of thought in medicine. Well, what is that? So it can be whatever somebody wants it to be. And I'm afraid that this is really a threat to any physician that would honestly share with a patient views about not just vaccines but any course of treatment, choices about healthcare and I hope this is defeated in the courts.

Fast forward to today, Israelsen told us the repeal is a welcomed development—however it’s likely not over. 

“There are rare moments when lessons are learned, and bad ideas are recognized and corrected. This is one of them. AB 2098 was an atrocious law, a violation of the special relationship between a doctor and patient to exchange any and all questions and ideas important to the patient. The death of AB 2098 is not the end of the story though, as the organizations behind this law will be back. And we will be waiting for them.”

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