WMC to ‘discipline’ practitioners offering COVID misinformation treatments

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Medical Commission (WMC) voted to adopt the COVID-19 Misinformation Position Statement as a way to combat false information on virus treatments being given to patients.

The unanimous vote, which happened on Sept. 22, was during a special meeting of commissioners, a news release said.

Now, practitioners who “are found offering treatments and recommendations regarding COVID-19 that fall below the standard of care as established by medical experts, federal authorities and legitimate medical research,” or COVID misinformation, could be “disciplined” by the WMC.

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Washington State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, said:

“It has never been more vital for trusted healthcare professionals to band together against the threat of misinformation. As we battle COVID-19, with so many tools at our disposal to protect ourselves and others, it is viral misinformation, rooted in unfounded scientific claims, that often stands in our way. It is our ethical duty to listen to our patients concerns, course-correct when people fall prey to falsehoods, and help them make informed medical decisions that are guided by research and medical science. Now more than ever we must align with the oath we took to “do no harm,” and part of that means trusting science, listening, educating, and caring for our patients according to the guidelines set by the FDA, the CDC, and experts at the state health department as we work to care for and protect the people we treat.”

The release said that the WMC has “always held the same position” when it comes to actions that fall below the care standard determined by the Uniform Disciplinary Act. However, the “politicization of COVID-19 and an influx of complaints regarding COVID misinformation prompted the WMC to reinforce its stance.”

RELATED: State entities could ‘take action’ against doctors prescribing Ivermectin

Scott Rogers. a commissioner and public member, said:

“This is not a new policy, this is not a new rule that we are making. We are following everything we have always followed in looking at evidence-based medicine.”

Harlan Gallinger, another commissioner and ER physician, said:

“As a practicing emergency physician we are on the front line and we are continuing to get bombarded and overwhelmed by patients who are not vaccinated and I think that’s in large part because of misinformation. And, I believe that we should be standing up on behalf of the practice of medicine. I support the statement and appreciate that it expresses what our expectation is from a professionalism standpoint about what is defined as misinformation.”

Currently, there are 35,000 physicians and physician assistants licensed by the WMC. However, some practitioners are recommending and/or writing prescriptions like Ivermectin as a coronavirus treatment despite multiple government agencies pleading against the spread of misinformation.

Terry Murphy, another commissioner and ER physician, said:

“I would like to say to the public we are trying to protect you. And, whether you are vaccinated or not, if you have COVID we will do everything in our power to save your life. But, these are unprecedented times. I have never worked in a state, where after 30 phone calls I’ve been told there is not a bed for your patient. So we have to shift our focus from treatment to prevention and that is part of this document… to give people comfort… because I have talked to so many people who have said, ‘I was supposed to get my COVID shot tomorrow but I am sick now.” 

According to the release, multiple other state medical boards have also attempted to crack down on COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.

“Much of this was prompted by the Federation of State Medical Board’s (FSMB) statement on spreading COVID-19 vaccine misinformation,” the release said. “Spreading inaccurate COVID-19 vaccine information contradicts that responsibility, threatens to further erode public trust in the medical profession, and puts all patients at risk.”