On September 30, 2022, despite the ardent pleas of millions of doctors, nurses, medical providers, lawyers, and concerned patients – and constituents – throughout the state, Governor Newsom signed Assemblyman Evan Low’s bill – Assembly Bill 2098 – into law. Fondly referred to by FLTJ as “the medical noose,” Assembly Bill 2098 as law will stifle honest, open discussions between medical professionals and their patients and drive out innovative, forward-thinking and thoughtful providers and scientists from the state by making the dissemination of “mis” or “disinformation” relating to COVID-19 “unprofessional conduct” subject to investigation and penalty, up to and including suspension and revocation of their medical licenses.
The Bill defines “mis” and “disinformation” as information relating to “the nature and risks of the virus, its prevention and treatment, and the development, safety, and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines” that is “false” or “contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care,” or is “disseminated with malicious intent or an intent to mislead.” Pursuant to the terms of the bill, covered communications will include those between the provider and patient “in the form of treatment or advice.”
While opponents objected to AB 2098 on the grounds of over-breadth and First Amendment violations, fearing the bill would bar the rigorous public debate necessary to keep science and medicine advancing and improving, Governor Newsom attempted to quell these concerns in his official statement announcing his signing of the bill:
I am signing this bill because it is narrowly tailored to apply only to those egregious instances in which a licensee
is acting with malicious intent or clearly deviating from the required standard of care while interacting directly
with a patient under their care . . . To be clear, this bill does not apply to any speech outside of discussions
directly related to COVID-19 treatment within a direct physician patient relationship . . . I am confident that
discussing emerging ideas or treatments including the subsequent risks and benefits does not constitute
misinformation or disinformation under this bill’s criteria.” [Emphasis added].