For the most part, Dr. Lee Merritt has appeared on talk shows and lecture halls to spread misinformation about COVID-19.
It claims that the SARS-CoV2 virus is a genetically engineered bio-weapon (US intelligence community) They say it is not)۔ And this vaccination dramatically increases the risk of death from COVID (data show) Extreme risk reduction For people who get vaccinated). She says in public lectures that the whole epidemic is a broad global conspiracy to use social control.
And yet, in October, she was able to renew her medical license in the state of Nebraska. Documents obtained through NPR’s public records application show that it took only a few clicks: 12 Yes or no online answers allowed him to extend his license for another year.
Critics say merit is renewed. Another example of how the country’s government medical boards are failing to protect the public From a small minority of doctors who are spreading lies.
“The state medical board has been, basically, a comfortable club for people who feel their job is to protect the profession,” says KC Ahmed, CEO. Center for the Counter-Digital Hate, A group that tracks vaccine misinformation online.
In the past, this meant a slow process that allowed doctors every opportunity to defend themselves against a complaint, he claims. But in the current epidemic, Ahmed says, medical boards need to move faster and with greater vigor. “Speeches are not enough, letters are not enough, we need action now,” he says.
By Joseph Preziuso / Getty Images AFP
A dangerous message
Fewer people have been more effective than doctors during epidemics. They have been on the front lines, fighting COVID and facilitating vaccine launches. Public health officials also see doctors as a great weapon in the fight against misinformation. Officials encourage people who are reluctant to vaccinate to talk to their doctor, as a way to counter the whirlpool of false claims and conspiracy theories online.
But a handful of doctors, such as Dr. Merritt, have done the opposite: spread bad information about COVID-19. Emergency room chief Nick Sawyer says his ability makes his message particularly dangerous. There is no license for misinformation.A group calling for action against doctors who spread lies.
“Doctors should be held to high standards because people are giving us their lives,” he says.
In the United States, the licensing of doctors varies from state to state. Medical boards are usually set up under state law and are made up of a mix of doctors, lawyers and citizens. The Board may receive complaints from any member of the public. They then investigate and take disciplinary action in accordance with their own laws and state laws.
License renewals are often automatic, and Sawyer says he wants the process to be as smooth as possible. But he is also frustrated by the lack of disciplinary action: “If you are a doctor in good health, you should be able to continue your practice without jumping off a group of hops,” he says. “But it also assumes that the medical board is doing its job.”
The spread of misinformation is not condemned.
So far, it seems that many physicians who spread misinformation have escaped condemnation. In September, NPR saw 16 doctors who made false claims about COVID, including merit. Records show that no one has been disciplined, and all but one have an active medical license. And Dr. Merritt was not the only one to receive the renewal.
Public records obtained by NPR show that Dr. Sherry Tenpini, another prominent anti-vaccine physician who claims – among other things – that vaccines magnetize people, has applied for his license online. Of renewal Of Ohio Capital Journal Reported first Renovation of Tenpenny in September.
Neither Dr. Merritt nor the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees its medical board, responded to NPR’s request for comment. But President Dr. Humayun Chaudhry Federation of State Medical BoardsAn umbrella group says the renewal of medical licenses is designed to make it easier for doctors.
“It’s a procedure that is usually automated and not even considered by the board,” he says. He says boards do not have the capacity to review hundreds or thousands of renewals each year, and that failure to renew would be tantamount to a license suspension, which cannot happen without proper action. But he also says the updates do not stop boards from taking action.
“A medical license that is automatically renewed does not mean that the investigation is not ongoing, nor does it prevent the board from taking disciplinary action against the licensee,” he says.
In fact, Chaudhry says a recent survey by the federation found that more than half of the country’s medical boards have seen an increase in complaints of doctors spreading misinformation about COVID-19. Among respondents to the FSMB survey, they say 21% have already taken some form of disciplinary action. Chaudhry says many others are now quietly investigating complaints. They need more time to work.
Le Merit, meanwhile, continues to travel the country, delivering speeches full of nonsense.