— ABEM threatens action, echoing warning from Federation of State Medical Boards
Physicians who publicly spread misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic could be sanctioned by the American Board of Emergency Medicine (ABEM), including potentially losing board certification, the organization said Thursday.
“Making public statements that are directly contrary to prevailing medical evidence can constitute unprofessional conduct and may be subject to review by ABEM. Should ABEM determine that a physician is promulgating inaccurate information that is contrary to the interests of patients and that adversely impacts public safety, ABEM may withdraw or deny certification for that physician,” they stated.
In an email to MedPage Today, ABEM said they issued a similar statement against physician misinformation last August, though they did not threaten any ramifications for these actions.
“ABEM believes that these statements speak for themselves. ABEM’s interests include providing a credential that is meaningful to physicians who are certified and providing a credential that the public values,” they stated.
Their current warning echoes a statement that focused on COVID-19 vaccines specifically from the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) issued earlier this month. Both follow reports of some physicians deliberately spreading misinformation about the pandemic — especially regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.
None of 20 notable physicians who have spread COVID misinformation had yet been disciplined by their state boards as of last week, about 2 weeks after FSMB’s statement was released. However, as these matters are confidential in most states, it is unclear if complaints have been filed or investigations have been launched.
“We commend ABEM for their commitment to helping combat the spread of COVID-19 misinformation and for reminding physicians they have an ethical responsibility to follow prevailing medical evidence and act in the best interest of their patients,” said the FSMB via an emailed statement.
The ABEM statement cited the group’s Code of Professionalism, recently updated in April, which noted that, “ABEM certification requirements for professionalism includes an ethical requirement to … Refrain from conduct that the Board determines, in its sole judgment, to be sufficiently egregious that it is inconsistent with ethical behavior by a physician.”
“Providing misleading and inaccurate information to the public can be sufficiently egregious and inconsistent with the ethical behavior of a physician who is expected to do no harm,” ABEM said.
“Conduct that is prohibited by this Code shall be reviewed by the ABEM Board of Directors and may result in decertification,” according to the Code of Professionalism, which also noted that ABEM has an appeal process “for physicians who are found to not fulfill the requirements described in the Code.”