In June, Sherri Tenpenny, a state-certified doctor of osteopathic medicine and famous COVID-19 disinformer, baselessly claimed in a televised government meeting that COVID-19 vaccines “magnetize” recipients and “interface” with them. cell towers.
The comment was not an aberration by Tenpenny, who has in the past described vaccines as a “depopulation” tool. The Ohio State Medical Board, an agency overseeing the discipline and complaints of physicians in the state, still renewed her license in September as part of what it called an “automatic” process for handling cases. renewals.
Its renewal points to a bigger problem at the intersection of politics, mass media, and public health: A strong and super-minority of doctors have found ways to monetize the lies about COVID-19 and the vaccines that keep it. prevent, and state medical boards are ill-equipped to deal with the problem, according to a report released Wednesday by the Beaumont Foundation.
“During this ongoing public health emergency that has claimed more than 5 million lives worldwide, a small minority of doctors have exploited the credibility that comes with their medical licenses to spread misinformation to the public,” the report said. . “Their lies, distortions and baseless conspiracy theories have caused unnecessary suffering and death which is prolonging the pandemic. “
According to a survey by the Federation of State Medical Boards, only about 21% of state medical boards have taken disciplinary action against a licensee for disseminating false or misleading medical information. About 2 in 3 boards said they noticed an increase in complaints about this.
The stated mission of the Ohio Medical Council is to “protect and enhance the health and safety of the public through effective medical regulation.” Spokeswoman Jerica Stewart said state law allows the board of directors to discipline physicians for making a “false, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading statement regarding the practice of medicine and surgery.” However, there is a high standard of proof to be observed. Tenpenny’s license, Stewart said, was automatically renewed, as part of an automated process to track the 92,000 licensees in Ohio. Tenpenny did not respond to an email.
“Ohio law prohibits the medical board from sharing details of complaints and inquiries received even if a license holder chooses to publicly comment on their interactions with the board,” she said. “I would also like to reiterate that a recent renewal does not prevent the board from taking future disciplinary action and does not mean that there is no open investigation.”
The Beaumont report criticizes boards of directors for having “stamped renewals for physicians who clearly violate medical standards, allowing them to do more harm without asking questions.”
Medical boards have structural problems that prevent them from disciplining disinformers, according to the report. Their work is shrouded in secrecy, the problem is somewhat new and evolving rapidly, and investigations take time.
Several doctors identified in the report have spread untruths throughout the pandemic about COVID-19 while being “able to assert their medical license for credibility.” For example, California doctor Simone Gold said in an interview with CNN that vaccines “cause disease.” Indiana doctor Dan Stock, speaking at a school board meeting, attributed an outbreak of COVID-19 to vaccines. North Carolina doctor Rashid Buttar claimed on CNN that the vaccine killed more people than COVID-19.
These claims run counter to real-world evidence showing that vaccines are incredibly powerful protectors against serious COVID-19 health problems like hospitalization or death. Likewise, the researchers found that there was no increase in mortality among vaccine recipients, and that recipients had lower non-COVID-19 death rates after adjusting for age and other characteristics.
The Beaumont Foundation, a public health advocacy group, commissioned a survey on the issue from Morning Consult. Of 2,200 adult respondents, around 9 in 10 said doctors were prohibited from “intentionally spreading disinformation or false health information”. About 8 in 10 said they should be penalized for it.
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