With 12 mouse clicks, physician tied to misinformation renews medical license

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The Federation of State Medical Boards warned in July that physicians could risk their medical licenses by furthering COVID-19 misinformation online and in the media. One physician's experience in Nebraska raises questions about how effectively medical boards can regulate the sharing of misinformation.

Lee Merritt, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon who has appeared on talk shows and in lecture venues throughout much of the pandemic, which she contends is a vast global conspiracy to exert social control, among other claims, NPR reports. 

Despite the federation's summer warning to physician misinformers, Dr. Merritt renewed her medical license in Nebraska in October.

"Documents obtained through a public records request by NPR showed it took just a few clicks: 12 yes-or-no questions answered online allowed her to extend her license for another year," according to the report

Critics say the development shows how powerless medical boards are in protecting the general public from a small group of physicians who insist on furthering misinformation.

Federation President Humayun Chaudhry, DO, told NPR that the license renewal process is designed to be easy for physicians.

"It's a procedural step that is usually automatic and not even deliberated upon by the board," he said. 

He said boards don't have the capacity to review the renewals that come up each year, and that a failure to renew would be equivalent to a license suspension, which cannot be done without due process. 

Dr. Chaudhry noted that renewals do not prevent boards from taking action. 

Dr. Merritt nor Nebraska's Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees its medical board, responded to NPR's request for comment. 

Read the report in full here

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