By Meiling Lee
Three certifying medical boards warn that disciplinary actions will be taken against American physicians who disseminate what the boards allege are “misinformation and disinformation” about COVID-19 vaccines.
In a joint statement, the American Board of Internal Medicine, the American Board of Family Medicine, and the American Board of Pediatrics issued a statement on Sept. 9 in support of the Federation of State Medical Board’s (FSMB) position in disciplining doctors—which includes revoking or suspending medical licenses—who provide COVID-19 vaccine information that the board does not view as factual and approved by consensus.
“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 statement said.
“The evidence that we have safe, effective, and widely available vaccines against COVID-19 is overwhelming. We are particularly concerned about physicians who use their authority to denigrate vaccination at a time when vaccines continue to demonstrate excellent effectiveness against severe illness, hospitalization and death,” the statement added.
The joint statement follows a FSMB statement released in July, which the organization said was “in response to a dramatic increase in the dissemination of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and disinformation by physicians and other health care professionals on social media platforms, online and in the media.”
“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,” FSMB said. “They also have an ethical and professional responsibility to practice medicine in the best interests of their patients and must share information that is factual, scientifically grounded and consensus-driven for the betterment of public health.”
The FSMB claims that “inaccurate” information on the COVID-19 vaccine puts patients at risk, contradicts the doctor’s ethical and professional responsibility, and further erodes public trust in the medical profession, which is regulated by the board.
The national nonprofit—which represents the 71 state medical boards in the United States and its territories—licenses and disciplines physicians, and in some jurisdictions, other health professionals; whereas the three certifying boards—part of the 24 member boards that make up the American Board of Medical Specialties—certifies that medical doctors have demonstrated proficiency in a specialized field.
Both the three boards and the FSMB did not reply to The Epoch Times enquiry of what would be considered “misinformation” by regulators and whether disciplinary actions have been taken against doctors who’ve expressed their professional opinion about the current state of COVID-19 vaccines developed under the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed initiative.
The boards’ joint statement has caused confusion, with doctors seeking clarification as to what the board classifies as misinformation.
In an email response to the Board of Pediatrics posted on Twitter, one pediatrician wrote, “I was disturbed to receive your recent email threatening board-certified physicians with revocation of their certification for being guilty of communicating ‘misinformation’ about COVID or COVID vaccines. Specifically, I am concerned that ‘misinformation’ is not defined and is at the sole discretion of the Board.
“Board certification requires great expense and many years of training, and threatening revocation for vague, ill-defined offenses—especially when the science around COVID and vaccines is still in a state of flux—seems cruel, unwise, and unfair,” the pediatrician added.
My response to @ab_peds re: revoking board certification over whatever they choose to define as COVID “misinformation”—or is it “disinformation?” (they used both words) #tweetiatricians @AmerAcadPeds pic.twitter.com/r5HZFuDgyq
— elizabeth bennett (@ebennett74) September 13, 2021
Two weeks before the board’s joint statement was issued, the American Board of Emergency Medicine (ABEM) announced on Aug. 26 that it would “withdraw or deny certification” to doctors who disseminated inaccurate information about measures taken to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“ABEM’s Code of Professionalism requires that physicians ‘Refrain from conduct that the Board determines, in its sole judgment, to be sufficiently egregious that it is inconsistent with ethical behavior by a physician,” the organization said in a news release.
“ABEM recognizes that there are numerous medical issues on which physicians will have legitimate differences of opinions – and that ABEM-certified physicians have every right to express their opinions on those issues. However, making public statements that are directly contrary to prevailing medical evidence can constitute unprofessional conduct and may be subject to review by ABEM.”
As to what information will be considered misleading and inaccurate, ABEM President Dr. Marianne Gausche-Hill told The Epoch Times in an email it “is characterized as contrary to prevailing medical evidence, egregious in its scope, and impacting the health and safety of the public.”
When asked if the organization’s Code of Professionalism also applies to doctors who refuse to treat patients who are unvaccinated, Gausche-Hill said that “ABEM-certified physicians have a legacy of professional commitment of treating any person for anything at any time.”
Several physicians have taken to social media to announce that they will not see or treat patients who are not vaccinated against COVID-19, although this goes against their Hippocratic Oath.Read MoreSydney Doctor Suspended Over Social Media Posts Questioning Vaccine Efficacy, Health Restrictions
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSP), a regulatory body for physicians in Ontario, Canada, issued a strong warning in April 2021 to its doctors stating that they risk being investigated and disciplined if their advice and comments encourage “the public to act contrary to public health orders and recommendations,” which the CPSP said would put the public at risk.
“Physicians hold a unique position of trust with the public and have a professional responsibility to not communicate anti-vaccine, anti-masking, anti-distancing, and anti-lockdown statements and/or promoting unsupported, unproven treatments for COVID-19,” it stated.
“When offering opinions, physicians must be guided by the law, regulatory standards, and the code of ethics and professional conduct. The information shared must not be misleading or deceptive and must be supported by available evidence and science,” the regulator added.