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How are we to understand scientific consensus? Who is authorized to speak on behalf of doctors and scientists as a whole, and how do those who present themselves as messengers of the majority reach their material findings? In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, these questions, and others like them, have important consequences for the future of American science and medicine.
The complaint in Missouri v. Biden arises from the controversy surrounding the Great Barrington Declaration, a declaration written in October 2020 and authored by renowned epidemiologists criticizing contemporary, aggressive COVID-19 policies. Plaintiffs allege that the federal government coerced social media companies to silence opposing viewpoints under the pretense of halting “disinformation” and “misinformation” thereby violating the First Amendment.
Hoeg v. Newsom is born of similar allegations at the state level. On September 30, 2022, the California State Legislature passed Assembly Bill No. 2098 that purports to rein in “disinformation” and “misinformation” about the COVID-19 virus and vaccines. The Bill states that “It shall constitute unprofessional conduct for a physician and surgeon to disseminate misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19, including false or misleading information regarding the nature and risks of the virus, its prevention and treatment; and the development, safety, and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.” Plaintiffs – all physicians licensed by the Medical Board of California – allege that the Bill violates their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by interfering with their ability to freely communicate to patients and dissent from mainstream viewpoints in their professional capacity as trained doctors.
Observers have noted that achieving scientific consensus on an emergent and politicized disease is very difficult. For example, the purported scientific consensus on masks, lockdowns, natural immunity, and various other COVID-related matters has remained in flux over the past three years. Some argue that government attempts to stifle debate are concerning and illustrate the purpose of the First Amendment.
Jenin Younes is Litigation Counsel for the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) and represents plaintiffs in both cases. Please join us as Jenin delivers updates on these cases and discusses the ongoing power struggle over the dissemination of medical information.
Jenin Younes, Litigation Counsel, New Civil Liberties Alliance
[Moderator] Margaret A. Little, Senior Litigation Counsel, New Civil Liberties Alliance
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