DeSantis calls on state legislature to protect healthcare workers’ freedom of speech

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has called on the state Legislature pass the Free Speech of Health Care Practitioners Act, which would protect health care practitioners’ freedom of speech and ability to offer COVID-19-related treatments.

His call comes after Florida revised its statewide COVID-19 related guidance and after he signed a bill that at least 35 organizations asked him to veto. Now health-care providers have liability protection from being sued by patients and family members over COVID-19-related injuries, deaths and refusal to try available treatment.

This latest bill would “ensure that woke corporations cannot prevent a doctor from exercising their sound judgment by prohibiting hospitals from interfering with a doctor’s recommendation for COVID-19 treatment if the patient agrees,” DeSantis’ office said. It also would ensure doctors are providing patients with all of the options for treatment.

According to the bill language, it “prohibits certain entities from reprimanding, sanctioning, or revoking or threatening to revoke license, certificate, or registration of health care practitioner for specified use of his or her right of free speech without specified proof; requires certain entities to provide to health care practitioner any complaints within specified timeframe.”

The Free Speech of Health Care Practitioners Act was filed in the state House and Senate as companion bills, HB 687 and SB 1184.

HB 687 was filed by state Reps. Brad Drake, R-Fort Walton Beach, and Alex Andrade, R-Pensacola, in November. It’s currently before the House Health & Human Services Committee. SB 1184 was filed by state Sen. Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Pensacola, in December. It’s advanced through two committees and is currently before the Appropriations committee.

“Despite ongoing health care practitioner shortages across the nation, these crucial frontline workers continue to face threats to their licenses if they dissent from the prevailing narrative of the medical establishment,” DeSantis said. “I am calling on the Legislature to pass this important free speech bill and strengthen the legislation by solidifying the right to prescribe and access COVID treatments. We must safeguard the free speech of our health care providers because it is through open dialogue and debate that science advances and patients receive the best care.”

“Practitioners are trained to know how to best care for their individual patients – not bureaucrats at the federal level,” Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joe Ladapo said. “COVID-19 has fostered dependence on obliging to whatever the federal government says about prevention and treatment. This has been ineffective and harmful to patients. Practitioners shouldn’t be scared to lose a license when they question the science behind federal decisions. This bill protects the speech of health care providers, and it thereby protects patients.”

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis also weighed in on the climate of doctors being silenced and potentially threatened for speaking out about COVID-19 treatment options.

“Something horrible in our country started when smart and credentialed experts started getting muzzled for their opinions,” he said. “We saw it with lockdowns. A lot of folks on TV shows were screaming about ‘following the science,’ but I think the only ‘science’ they cared about was ‘political science.’ For our country to succeed we need more ideas, not less. And I’m concerned about how laws and rules are being used to fortify groupthink, which doesn’t allow the best ideas to rise to the top.”

Dr. Jon Ward, president of Dermatology Specialists of Florida, said the personal liability protection bill the governor signed allowed him to prescribe treatment to hundreds of patients. He added that “doctors are being silenced, their ability to make a living and care for patients is being threatened. I’m blessed to be in the state of Florida where public health decisions are led by data and not the dogma of Dr. [Anthony] Fauci.”

Dr. Raj Bendre, an oncology specialist, said the legislation filed by state Reps. Drake and Andrade and state Sen. Broxson “is very important to protect patients and allow free speech for physicians to engage in and open thoughts. When you have open thoughts, you have real science which is meaningful, as opposed to mandates that come from a centralized authority which is never good.”

Shawn McBride, with American Freedom Information Institute, Inc., who led the 35-group coalition asking the governor to protect patients’ rights and safeguard medical freedom, told The Center Square the proposed legislation would benefit Floridians.

“It’s scary to think of the world we may live in if healthcare providers cannot do their own independent analysis and speak out when they disagree with established protocols,” he said. “Many times our well-intentioned health agencies have approved medications or treatments to only find out later that it was a mistake. Think of Thalidomide, the swine flu vaccines and Fen-Phen. We must allow our doctors the independence to apply their own judgment and to challenge health standards they believe may be incorrect. Otherwise our entire healthcare system is locked into groupthink with the inability to innovate. Such a system would be very likely to lead to more deaths and medical injuries for patients.”

This article was originally posted on DeSantis calls on state legislature to protect healthcare workers’ freedom of speech

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