Physicians are sworn by their Hippocratic Oath to do no harm. Physicians who spread misinformation or disinformation, especially during a raging pandemic, have the potential to do a great deal of harm. When the public turns to physicians as trusted sources of medical advice, it is essential that the advice is based on scientific research alone, not political fantasy.
Those physicians who spread misinformation or disinformation on television, radio or other media platforms must understand that their words matter because a certain percentage of the population will act on what they hear.
The nonsensical assertions by so-called medical experts about the animal parasite medication ivermectin are a case in point. People are following this advice and are putting their lives in danger as a result.
The Federation of State Medical Boards recently warned that doctors “who generate and spread COVID-19 vaccine misinformation or disinformation are risking disciplinary action by state medical boards, including the suspension or revocation of their medical license.”
The federation’s stand is long overdue considering the vast amount of misinformation that has accumulated since the start of the pandemic. Doctors who hear wild assertions that are not backed by scientific research owe it to the public to clarify the record immediately and boldly eliminate as much confusion as possible.
No, drinking disinfectant does not treat the coronavirus (as President Donald Trump implied) and can lead to death. No, taking anti-parasite medication is not a coronavirus preventative. Yes, the three federally approved coronavirus vaccines are effective at preventing coronavirus infection and do help reduce the severity of the virus among already immunized people.
The Federation of State Medical Boards noted that doctors, by virtue of their specialized training, “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 American Medical Association journal Ethics has urged medical boards to take corrective action when physicians “violate the medical practice act,” adding: “The overriding mission of medical boards is to serve the public by protecting it from incompetent, unprofessional and improperly trained physicians.”
So far, there’s been no public reporting of physicians who have been suspended or lost their medical licenses for spreading misinformation or disinformation.
But misleading testimony like what cardiologist Dr. Peter McCullough provided to a Texas legislative panel in March should provide ample grounds for state medical board review. He said: “People under 50 who fundamentally have no health risks, there’s no scientific rationale for them to ever become vaccinated.”