Under Assembly Bill 2098, a doctor could lose his or her medical license for giving patients so-called "misinformation" about COVID, which the measure defines as anything that goes against the contemporary scientific consensus.
In other words, a single instance of a doctor telling a patient a single piece of information with which the state disagrees would be considered the equivalent of gross negligence and would allow the California Medical Board to revoke the physician's license.
Jacob Huebert, president of Liberty Justice Center, says that was a problem for doctors like his clients.
"One, they don't know what the contemporary scientific consensus is, and two, they've been saying things from the beginning of COVID that went against what the government claimed the official consensus was," the attorney explains. "They were very concerned that they could now lose their licenses for giving their patients their best, honest advice about COVID. There are many doctors across California who have that same concern, and so that's why we brought a lawsuit immediately after this law was passed."
In early September, following the oral argument in the case, SB 815—a preexisting bill to reauthorize the Medical Board of California—was quietly amended to include a repeal of AB 2098. Huebert celebrates that, but he does not think it should have taken a lawsuit and a year of litigation to get rid of the measure.
"This law should never have been on the books because it plainly violates doctors' First Amendment rights," he says. "It's anti-free speech, and it's also anti-science to stop people from saying what they think about an ongoing developing medical situation."
The repeal of the law does not take effect until January, which means, theoretically, doctors could still face punishment for saying the wrong things to their patients about COVID.
Meanwhile, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals could still issue its opinion on the matter. But recalling the state's "icy" reception there, where the judges asked the government's lawyers "lots of tough questions," Huebert expects AB 2098 will soon be gone for good.