California's COVID-19 misinformation law is dead

A California law that allowed regulators to discipline physicians for spreading misinformation related to COVID-19 has been repealed, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Oct. 2. 

The law, AB2098, which took effect Jan. 1, made California the first state in the U.S. to include COVID-19 misinformation in the definition of physician misconduct. Violations could have led to license suspension or revocation. However, on Sept. 30, Gov. Gavin Newsom quietly repealed the law when he signed a dense bill, SB815, that addressed a broad range of physician requirements. 

Weeks after AB2098 took effect in January, a federal court blocked the state from enforcing the law. Judge William Shubb of the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of California issued a preliminary injunction in response to a request from a group of physicians who opposed the law. In an earlier decision related to the law, Central District Judge Fred Slaughter said it merely allows the state to consider disciplining physicians for giving patients misinformation about the disease.

Mr. Slaughter's ruling was appealed and a decision is pending. The new law, SB815, wouldn't nullify the original law until January 1, 2024, but the original law is still on hold because of Mr. Shubb's ruling. In the meantime, some are doubtful any disciplinary actions under AB2098 will occur. 

"I would be shocked" if the state's medical boards tried to discipline doctors under AB2098, Greg Dolin, a lawyer for the New Civil Liberties Alliance, the nonprofit law firm representing a group of physicians who previously filed a lawsuit over the law, told the San Francisco Chronicle. 


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