On Wednesday, January 26, the Senate Health Policy Committee will be voting on the confirmation of Dr. Joseph Ladapo as State Surgeon General, and SB 1184 (Broxson) Free Speech of Medical Practitioners. We need you to OPPOSE both.
By his words and actions, Dr. Joseph Ladapo has not demonstrated the qualifications necessary to lead the premier public health agency in Florida. Here are some talking points against his confirmation:
He is a member and public spokesperson for America’s Frontline Doctors (AFLDS) which is a right-wing political organization that spreads lies under the guise of medical expertise. The group is opposed to preventive public health measures to control COVID-19 (e.g., masks and vaccines) while advocating for drugs and treatments that have not been adequately peer-reviewed and approved (e.g., hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin).
He stated that he was a front-line physician caring for COVID-19 patients at UCLA, contrary to UCLA records.
He refused to wear a mask when meeting with Sen. Tina Polsky who had recently started treatment for breast cancer—even after she requested him to do so. Even Republican Senate President Simpson called this action “unprofessional” and “disappointing.”
SB 1184: Free Speech of Health Care Practitioners, which applies to dentists, nurses, pharmacists, and about 20 other health care providers, wants to bar state regulators from sanctioning HCPs who tout medically questionable treatments or cures. It is a muzzle on the ability of licensing boards to hold physicians medically accountable when they claim infringement on their freedom of speech. Here are some talking points against the bill:
First Amendment rights give people the right to speak or publish what they desire if that speech does not threaten or endanger others.
Medical speech is elevated to a higher standard in our society than “free” speech from bartenders, hairdressers, or other purveyors of everyday advice. It invokes authority, especially from physicians, when lives are at stake.
Medical speech that spreads lies and misinformation is not just unprofessional, it is fraudulent. And Florida Statute 456.0635 states that “health care fraud in the practice of a health care profession is prohibited.”
Such fraudulent medical speech is also unethical, exploitative, and violates a patient’s right to informed consent, a concept wholly dependent on complete and accurate information. As such, it should be subject to scrutiny by state licensing boards. How else do we stop the ability of any charlatan or con artist from engaging in any “medical” practice under the banner of First Amendment protection.
This bill is another regressive step in society’s devaluation of expertise and professionalism, especially in the sciences.
Private businesses like hospitals and medical practices have no legal obligation to protect or even respect any HCP’s right to free speech. They can be terminated at will like any other employee in Florida. It would be good to remind HCPs of this fact in the bill.
Please contact the legislators below before Wednesday and tell them to VOTE NO on the confirmation of Dr. Joseph Ladapo as State Surgeon General and SB 1184: Free Speech of Health Care Practitioners.
Their emails are grouped for easy cut/paste below and offered in various formats -
Chair: Senator Manny Diaz, Jr. (R)
Vice Chair: Senator Jason Brodeur (R)
Senator Ben Albritton (R)
Senator Dennis Baxley (R)
Senator Aaron Bean (R)
Senator Lauren Book (D)
Senator Janet Cruz (D)
Senator Ileana Garcia (R)
Senator Shevrin D. "Shev" Jones (D)
Senator Bobby Powell (D)
Thank you, Jean Siebenaler
LEGISLATIVE CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC WOMEN'S CLUB OF FLORIDA