California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill in November 2022 that allows the state Medical Board and Osteopathic Medical Board to discipline physicians who knowingly give misinformation or disinformation to their patients on COVID-19 as part of “unprofessional conduct.” This is one of the first such laws in the country to be enacted.
Assembly Bill No. 2098 (AB-2098) adds Section 2270 to the Business and Professions Code. The new section reads:
2270. (a) It shall constitute unprofessional conduct for a physician and surgeon to disseminate misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19, including false or misleading information regarding the nature and risks of the virus, its prevention and treatment; and the development, safety, and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
In terms of the new wording within the added section, “disseminate” means conveying information to a patient under the physician’s care in the form of treatment or advice; “disinformation” is misinformation that a physician deliberately disseminates with malicious intent or an intent to mislead; and “misinformation” means false information contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care.
Governor Newsom made clear in a press conference that this will not apply to conversations outside of the direct physician–patient relationship, such as social media discussions. You can read the text of AB-2098 here.