Physicians sue to end implicit bias training requirement in California

Two physicians and a nonprofit group have filed a lawsuit against the Medical Board of California to stop it from enforcing a state requirement for physicians to study the role of implicit bias in health inequities as part of continuing medical education, according to the San Francisco Chronicle

A California state law that took effect Jan. 1, 2022, requires medical professionals to study implicit bias as part of the 50 hours of continuing education they are required to take every two years to renew their license to practice. 

The plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit that seeks an injunction to drop the requirement. The plaintiffs are Marilyn Singleton, MD, an anesthesiologist, and Azadeh Khatibi, MD, an ophthalmologist. Both are accredited to teach continuing medical education courses. The third plaintiff is a Virginia nonprofit called Do No Harm, whose membership includes "at least one individual who teaches and organizes continuing medical education courses for credit in California."  

The plaintiffs claim that implicit bias in healthcare is unproven and the requirement to teach material they do not agree with violates their constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection.

The Medical Board of California did not immediately respond to the Chronicle's request for comment.

Earlier this year, Dr. Singleton penned an op-ed for The Washington Post voicing her dissatisfaction with the California law, AB 241. In her February op-ed, titled "I'm a Black physician, and I'm appalled by mandated implicit bias training," she noted she had not yet completed the training but recognized she needed to by year's end to have her medical license renewed.  

"The whole point of implicit bias training is to create better health outcomes for Black patients and others who might be the target of discrimination, but the opposite seems more likely," Dr. Singleton wrote. "It fosters a climate of distrust and resentment that threatens to undermine the medical and moral progress I've seen over the decades." 

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