Photo: Tennessee House of Representatives & Representative John Ragan ; Photo Credit: John Partipilo & capitol.tn.gov
By Anita Wadhwani [The Tennessee Lookout CC BY-NC-ND 4.0] –
Tennessee Republican Rep. John Ragan has demanded that a state medical board remove a policy statement from its website that warns physicians who spread “misinformation” regarding COVID-19 vaccines risk disciplinary action.
In a letter sent Monday to Dr. Melanie Blake, president of the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners, Ragan instructed the statement be deleted “without delay.”
“If you fail to act promptly, your organization will be required to appear before the Joint Government Operations Committee to explain your inaction,” wrote Ragan, the committee’s House chair, in the Nov. 15 letter obtained by the Tennessee Lookout.
Newly enacted legislation, signed by Gov. Bill Lee on Nov. 12, bars licensing boards such as the Board of Medical Examiner from disciplining doctors for “spreading misinformation or dispensing unproven medications for COVID-19” unless the board creates special rules. Those rules must be approved by lawmakers. The legislation was aimed directly at repealing the board’s actions.
The policy, which remained posted board’s website Friday morning, was adopted by the 12-member board in September and says, in full:
“Physicians who generate and spread COVID-19 vaccine misinformation or disinformation are risking disciplinary action by state medical board, including the suspension or revocation of their medical license. Due to their specialized knowledge and training, licensed physicians possess a high degree of public trust and therefore have a powerful platform in society, whether they recognize it or not.
They also have an ethical and professional responsibility to practice medicine in the best interests of their patients and must share information that is factual, scientifically grounded and consensus-driven for the betterment of public health. 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.”
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Ragan’s letter references prior correspondence with Blake. An email from Blake to Ragan on Nov. 9 “indicates you do not plan to even consider action until January of 2022. Such delay is unacceptable given the issue was brought to your attention…three weeks ago.”
The Government Operations Committee is next scheduled to convene for a routine review of proposed rules on December 15. The Board of Medical Examiners is already scheduled to appear on that date.
Efforts to reach members of the board have thus far been unsuccessful.
Physicians and hospital groups opposed legislation that would strip the medical board of its powers to discipline doctors who spread COVID disinformation.
“If the board cannot exert its influence appropriately in the policing of our profession, we are losing our autonomy and the trust of our patients,” said Dr. Amy Bono, a Nashville physician.
Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee. She is a graduate of Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism. You can contact Wadhwai at email@example.com.