Two California doctors have filed a federal lawsuit to overturn a new state law restricting the advice they can give patients about COVID-19.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed Assembly Bill 2098 into law on Friday. It authorizes the Medical Board of California to levy professional sanctions against and revoke the licenses of doctors who share with patients “misinformation” that challenges the scientific consensus about COVID-19.
Filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the lawsuit claims the law violates doctors’ freedom of speech and the spirit of scientific inquiry. It names the 12 members of the state medical board and state Attorney General Robert Bonta, a Democrat, as defendants.
“AB 2098 intrudes into the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship, replacing the medical judgment of the government for that of the licensed professional, and chilling the speech of those who dissent from the official view,” the complaint states.
According to the language of the law, doctors who tell patients anything that “is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus” about COVID-19 treatment are guilty of “unprofessional conduct.” The state medical board defines scientific consensus, it says.
Drs. Mark McDonald, a Los Angeles psychiatrist, and Jeff Barke, an Orange County primary care physician, filed the lawsuit. They are being represented by attorneys from Liberty Justice Center, a Chicago-based nonprofit law firm.
In a statement, Dr. McDonald said the law shuts down his freedom “to explore alternatives and share opinions that challenge the scientific consensus.”
The Medical Board of California and the offices of Mr. Newsom and the state attorney general did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
In a statement appended Friday to the new law and quoted in court documents, Mr. Newsom said it was “narrowly tailored” to respect doctors’ opinions outside of the office.