Calls multiply to discipline doctors spreading misinformation about viruses

Standing outside a local central Indiana school board this month, Dr Daniel Stock, a state doctor, released a litany of false claims abo...


Standing outside a local central Indiana school board this month, Dr Daniel Stock, a state doctor, released a litany of false claims about the coronavirus. He proclaimed that the recent increase in the number of cases showed that vaccines were ineffective, that people were doing better with a cocktail of drugs and supplements to avoid hospitalization because of the virus, and that masks were not helping. to prevent the spread of infection.

Its appearance has since become one of the most watched coronavirus disinformation videos. The videos – several versions are available online – have racked up nearly 100 million likes and shares on Facebook, 6.2 million views on Twitter, at least 2.8 million views on YouTube and over 940,000 views of videos on Instagram.

The popularity of his speech underscores one of the pandemic’s most striking paradoxes. Even as many doctors fight to save the lives of people with Covid-19, a small number of their medical peers have had disproportionate influence in propelling false and misleading information about the virus and vaccines.

Now there is a growing call among medical groups to discipline doctors who spread incorrect information. The Federation of State Medical Boards, which represents groups that authorize and discipline doctors, recommended last month that states consider action against physicians who share false medical claims, including the suspension or revocation of medical licenses. The American Medical Association says spreading false information violates the code of ethics that licensed physicians agree to follow.

“When a doctor speaks, people pay attention,” said Dr Humayun Chaudhry, president of the Federation of State Medical Boards. “The title of doctor gives credibility to what people say to the general public. That is why it is so important that these doctors do not spread false information.

Dr Stock joined doctors, including Dr Joseph Mercola and a group called American primary care physicians, generating huge audiences for their bogus claims. Statements by them and others have contributed to vaccine reluctance and mask resistance that has exacerbated the pandemic in the United States, according to public health officials.

Doctors often wear lab coats and use simplified medical jargon, giving an air of authority. They often take advantage of a ready audience online by broadcasting live press conferences and maintain interest by promising new evidence that will expose corruption and support their arguments.

Some state medical boards have disciplined doctors for their conduct during the pandemic. In December, the Oregon Medical Council order an emergency suspension of a doctor’s medical license after violating a state order by not wearing a mask or requiring patients to wear masks. The decision bars the doctor from practicing medicine in Oregon until the governor lifts the state of emergency issued for the pandemic.

In January, a San Francisco doctor who falsely claimed 5G technology was the cause of the pandemic volunteered to turn his license over to the California Medical Board.

“Public dissemination of false information about Covid-19 may be considered unprofessional conduct and could be grounds for disciplinary action,” Carlos Villatoro, spokesperson for the Medical Board of California, said in a statement.

But Dr Chaudhry said it was impossible to know how many states had opened investigations into doctors spreading disinformation. Such investigations are generally not made public until a decision is made, and the process can take several months.

Dr Stock, 59, did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article. He has been a registered physician in Indiana since 1989, a year after graduating from Indiana University School of Medicine. He has worked in several hospitals, emergency care centers and private practices across the state, according to a profile on LinkedIn.

On Dr. Stock’s website, it stands out from conventional medicine. “By presenting patients with all of their treatment options – whether it’s a pill, lifestyle change, therapy or supplements – I help patients choose which option suits them best, ”the website says. “It translates into permanent healing, not just the temporary relief found in the traditional system.” He sells dozens of vitamins and supplements on the site.

In the video which has gone widely this month, Dr Stock is shown speaking at a board meeting of the Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation in Fortville, just east of Indianapolis. Standing with his back to the camera and speaking in a fast, almost monotonous clip, he begins his statement with the following sentence: “Anything that the CDC recommends is actually against the rules of science.” Then he selectively cites academic studies to make it appear that widely used medical advice, like wearing a mask and getting vaccinations, doesn’t work.

YouTube, which bans videos spreading false information about the virus, said it would not remove the full video of the meeting that the school board had posted. “Although we clearly have Strategies To eliminate the harmful disinformation of Covid-19, we also recognize the importance of organizations like school boards using YouTube to share recordings of open public forums, ”said Elena Hernandez, spokesperson for YouTube.

The original video of the meeting has over 620,000 views. Previous Mount Vernon School Board videos on YouTube had each garnered only a few hundred views.

YouTube has removed videos from the meeting which have been edited to show only Dr Stock’s speech. But some of those versions spread widely before YouTube made the move, with views reaching 15,000 per hour in the days following the meeting, according to a 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, shared by a former adviser to former President Donald J. Trump, has garnered more than six million views. Another was shared by Rep. Jim Jordan, Republican from Ohio.

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

Eric Sears, spokesperson for the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, which oversees medical licensing in the state, said the Indiana Attorney General’s office is responsible for investigating public complaints about doctors spreading false information about Covid-19. The attorney general’s office sends the findings of these investigations to the Indiana Medical Board.

“At this time, we have not been notified by the Attorney General’s office of an ongoing investigation” into Dr. Stock, Mr. Sears said. “The board probably wouldn’t act until an investigation was conducted by the attorney general’s office.”

David A. Keltz, spokesperson for the Indiana attorney general, said the office could not determine whether any complaints against Dr. Stock were under investigation. Mr Keltz said the state would only issue a public statement about such an investigation if the office decides to file a formal complaint with the Indiana Medical Council.

Doctors spreading disinformation about coronaviruses “use the credibility of their titles and medical expertise to make their arguments appear more authoritative,” said Rachel E. Moran, a University of Washington researcher who studies disinformation online, especially on Covid-19 vaccines.

“What is most frustrating about this is the way anti-vaccination advocates generally spread distrust of healthcare professionals until it is no longer a useful strategy for them,” said Mrs. Moran, noting that they regularly cast doubt on Dr Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.

“Then a ‘doctor’ comes along who matches their values,” Ms. Moran said, “and suddenly that institutional expertise is credible.”

Jacob Silver and Michael H. Keller contributed research.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Calls multiply to discipline doctors spreading misinformation about viruses
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