Increasing Calls for Discipline to Doctors Spreading Virus Misinformation

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Standing before a local school board in central Indiana this month, state physician Dr. Daniel Stock has made a number of false claims about the coronavirus. He declared that the recent increase in cases showed that vaccines were ineffective, people were better off with a cocktail of drugs and supplements to prevent hospitalization from the virus, and that masks did not help prevent the spread of infection.

His appearance has since become one of the most watched coronavirus misinformation videos. The videos – various versions available online – have garnered nearly 100 million likes and shares on Facebook, 6.2 million views on Twitter, at least 2.8 million views on YouTube, and more than 940,000 video views on Instagram.

The popularity of his speech points to one of the more striking paradoxes of the pandemic. While many doctors are fighting to save the lives of people infected with COVID-19, very few of their medical colleagues have too much influence in spreading false and misleading information about the virus and vaccines.

There is now a growing call among medical groups to discipline doctors who spread misinformation. The Federation of State Medical Boards, which represents the groups that license and discipline doctors, recommended last month These states are considering filing lawsuits against doctors who share false medical claims, including suspending or revoking medical licenses. The American Medical Association says spreading misinformation violates ethical rules that licensed physicians agree to abide by.

The head of the Federation of State Health Boards, Dr. “When a doctor speaks, people pay attention,” said Humayun Chaudhry. “The title of physician gives credibility to what people say to the general public. That’s why it’s very important that these doctors don’t spread misinformation.”

Dr. Doctors including Stock participated Joseph Mercola and Dr. Judy Mikovitsand a group calling itself America’s Leading Doctors, in creating large audiences for their false claims. Public health officials say their and others’ statements have contributed to vaccine hesitancy and resistance to masks exacerbating the pandemic in the United States.

Doctors often stand in lab coats and use simplified medical jargon, giving an air of authority. By broadcasting news conferences live, they often draw on an online-ready audience and keep interest alive by promising new evidence to expose corruption and support their arguments.

Some state health boards have disciplined doctors for their behavior during the pandemic. In December, the Oregon Health Board It has been ordered Immediate suspension of a doctor’s medical license after violating a government order by not wearing masks or requiring patients to wear masks. The ruling bans doctors from practicing medicine in Oregon until the governor lifts the pandemic emergency.

In January, a San Francisco doctor who claimed that 5G technology caused the pandemic volunteered to hand over his license to the California Medical Board.

“Public dissemination of false Covid-19 information may be considered unprofessional behavior and may result in disciplinary action,” California Medical Board spokesman Carlos Villatoro said in a statement. Said.

However, Dr. Chaudhry said it’s impossible to know how many states have opened investigations into doctors who spread false information. Such investigations are often not announced until a decision is made and the process can take months.

59-year-old Dr. Stock did not respond to requests for comment for this article. He has been a licensed physician in Indiana since 1989, one year after graduating from Indiana University School of Medicine. According to a profile on LinkedIn, she has worked at various hospitals, emergency care centers, and private practice in the state.

Dr. It distinguishes itself from traditional medicine on Stock’s website. “By providing patients with all of their treatment options—whether it’s a pill, lifestyle change, therapy, or supplements—I help patients choose the option that’s best for them,” she says on her website. “This results in permanent healing, not just the temporary relief found in the traditional system.” It sells dozens of vitamins and supplements on the site.

In the video that went viral this month, Dr. Stock is a Mt. He is shown speaking at the Vernon Community School Corporation board meeting. Standing with his back to the camera and speaking in a fast, almost monotonous clip, he opens his statement with the line: “Everything the CDC recommends is actually against the rules of science.” He then cites academic studies to give the impression that widely accepted medical advice, such as wearing masks and getting vaccinated, is not working.

YouTube, which bans videos that spread misinformation about the virus, said it would not remove the full video of the meeting the school board put online. “While we have clear policies “We also recognize the importance of organizations such as school boards using YouTube to share recordings of public forums to dispel harmful Covid-19 misinformation,” said YouTube spokesperson Elena Hernandez.

The original video of the meeting was watched more than 620,000 times. Each of the Mount Vernon school board’s previous videos on YouTube garnered only a few hundred views.

YouTube said the meeting was only directed by Dr. Removed videos edited to show Stock’s speech. But some of these releases went widely before YouTube made that decision, with views reaching up to 15,000 per hour in the days after the meeting, according to the New York Times’ analysis of available YouTube data.

People shared his speech on alternative video platforms like Bitchute and Rumble, and on blogs like “Hancock County Patriots” and “DJHJ Media”. A version of the video on Twitter, once shared by an adviser to former President Donald J. Trump, has been viewed more than six million times. Another was shared by Ohio Republican Representative Jim Jordan.

Dr. Stock was also featured on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News, repeating the false claim that “there is no consensus that masks work – the data on this is very fuzzy.”

Eric Sears, a spokesman for the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, which oversees the issuance of medical licenses in the state, said the Indiana attorney general’s office is responsible for investigating public complaints about doctors spreading COVID-19 misinformation. The Attorney General sends its findings from these investigations to the Indiana Medical Board.

Mr. Sears said, “As yet, by the attorney general’s office, Dr. “We were not informed of an ongoing investigation into Stock,” he said. “The board probably won’t take action until an investigation is completed by the attorney general’s office.”

David A. Keltz, spokesman for the Indiana attorney general’s office, said the office’s Dr. He said he could not discuss whether any complaints against Stock were under investigation. Mr. Keltz said that the state would only The office has decided to file a formal complaint with the Indiana Medical Board.

Doctors who spread coronavirus misinformation “use the credibility of their titles and their medical expertise to make their arguments seem more credible,” said Rachel E. Moran, a researcher at the University of Washington who studies online misinformation, including on Covid-19 vaccines.

“The most frustrating thing about it is that anti-vaccine advocates spread distrust of medical professionals until it’s no longer a useful strategy for them,” Moran said. Anthony S. FauciDirector of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr.

“Then a ‘doctor’ who aligns with their values ​​comes along and all of a sudden this institutional expertise becomes credible,” Moran said.

Jacob Silver and Michael H. Keller contributed to research.

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