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Lawyers representing four doctors who sued the Washington Medical Commission (WMC) after it punished three of them for allegedly spreading COVID-19 misinformation and for treating patients with ivermectin and other off-label drugs last week argued in support of their plaintiffs’ motion for declaratory and injunctive relief. The fourth doctor joined the lawsuit after relinquishing her license over concerns of the WMC’s investigations of her colleagues.
“Last week we asked the court to declare the WMC’s COVID-19 Misinformation Position Statement as invalidly adopted and to tell the WMC to cease any enforcement under the position statement,” said Simon Peter “Pete” Serrano, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs.
The Superior Court of Washington in and for Benton and Franklin Counties held the hearing.
Turner et al. v. Washington Medical Commission alleges that the WMC broke its own rulemaking process when it adopted a rule that doctors must adhere to the commission’s COVID-19 Misinformation Position Statement or be subject to penalties.
The lawsuit further alleges the WMC’s COVID-19 Misinformation Position Statement violates the doctors’ rights to free speech as protected by the Washington Constitution and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Plaintiffs Dr. Michael Kwame Turner, Dr. Richard “Rick” Wilkinson and Dr. Ryan Cole, all licensed in Washington, were disciplined by the WMC, including being put on probation and issued a $15,000 fine for allegedly spreading COVID-19 misinformation.
The fourth plaintiff, Dr. Renata Moon, was not disciplined by the WMC but was negatively affected by its position statement.
The WMC’s statement “supports the position taken by the Federation of State Medical Boards regarding COVID-19 vaccine misinformation” and states that doctors “may be subjecting their license to disciplinary action” if they grant “exemptions to vaccination or masks that are not based in established science or verifiable fact.”
Judge Joseph Burrowes heard arguments by the plaintiffs in which they stated why the WMC’s position statement was invalidly adopted and should no longer be enforced. Judge Burrowes also heard defendants’ opposing arguments. He is expected to rule within 90 days.
Serrano said he was “hopeful” that the judge might rule that the WMC “invalidly and improperly adopted” the position statement.
This would mean the WMC could no longer legally enforce it and would require that the WMC adopt the statement properly by adhering to its rulemaking procedure.
The WMC’s rulemaking procedure lasts at least 30 days and involves giving public notice and soliciting public comments before adoption. “They didn’t do any of that when they adopted the position statement,” Serrano said.
“The case has tremendous importance,” Serrano, SMF’s director and general counsel, told The Defender, “because if we’re successful, then it gets us back to square one where doctors’ rights to free speech are maintained or retained.”
Turner, an integrative medicine physician, agreed.
“Our suit is a landmark event that should concern (and encourage) every person who cares about our constitutional rights and, specifically, the issue of medical freedom,” Turner told The Defender.
Turner said he and his fellow plaintiffs are not the only doctors to file lawsuits that challenge attempted government overreach and seek to stop the state from intimidating healthcare providers. “This is exactly the same thing that has happened to Dr. Nass and many others,” he said.
Serrano said Judge Burrowes “asked some good questions” during last week’s hearing that showed “he clearly understood the First Amendment implications, and to me, that’s a move in the right direction.”
Pediatrician fired for ‘spreading misinformation’ in congressional hearing
Moon, a pediatrician represented in the lawsuit, told The Defender she was “simply trying to uphold my Hippocratic Oath to ‘do no harm’” when she spoke out about the dangers of the COVID-19 mRNA shots for children during a 2022 congressional hearing.
After voicing her concerns at the hearing, Washington State University — where she had taught since 2017 — filed a complaint against her with the WMC for allegedly promoting COVID-19 misinformation. In June, the university let her go by not renewing her appointment as a clinical associate professor of medicine.
“Imagine a world where your physician is punished for critically thinking and speaking about the dangers of a brand new medical product,” Moon said. “Imagine a world with massive corruption and conflict of interest that has infiltrated every aspect of the highest levels of government.”
“We have already arrived in that world,” she said. “Look into the eyes of your children and grandchildren. What kind of a future will they have if this tyrannical system is allowed to continue unchecked?”
“I remain concerned about the extreme risk of giving this genetic mRNA shot to our nation’s children.
“I spoke at the U.S. Senate hearing with the hope that our medical community would come together for a decent and honest discussion about the risks and benefits of administering this shot to children.
“Instead, it’s clear that we have a chilling lack of free speech and complete disregard for safety.”
Moon said her former medical school employer wrote a memo claiming it had an “ethical obligation” to report to the WMC what Moon had said during the Senate fact-finding hearing because she may have spread “misinformation.”
“I ask you this,” Moon said. “Have we completely lost the freedom to speak and to debate scientific data? Even at medical schools tasked with teaching future doctors? Especially at medical schools tasked with teaching our nation’s future doctors?”
“We have entered a scary new world that previously was found only in our darkest nightmares.”
WMC’s COVID statement ‘absurd and abusive’
“Ivermectin and HCQ [hydroxychloroquine] were stigmatized by the media, mainstream medical organizations and state medical boards,” Turner said.
When the WMC published its COVID-19 Misinformation Position Statement, it cited the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as establishing the “standard of care” and then “boldly warned practitioners to ‘take note’ that ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine are not FDA-approved for COVID,” Turner said.
The WMC also provided a link for filing a complaint in order to “encourage” the public and other practitioners to report any deviation from this standard of care, he added.
Turner called the WMC’s behavior “absurd and abusive” for three reasons. He said:
1) The FDA does not have the mandate, authority nor expertise to determine what specific medicine may or may not benefit a particular patient at a particular point in time.
2) “Off-label” medication use is common and appropriate in the right context.
3) Complaints were accepted and used as a basis for investigation that were not even filed by the patient nor his/her immediate family.
‘There was never a complaint from a patient’
The plaintiffs also challenged the legality of the WMC’s adoption of the position statement “through a Special Meeting with limited notice and without opportunity for public comment.”
Wilkinson, an integrative practitioner with more than 40 years of experience, disagreed with the position statement and chose to “consistently treat people who needed help” by prescribing off-label drugs, including ivermectin and azithromycin. Seven complaints were filed against him.
“There was never a complaint from a patient,” Wilkinson told The Defender. “All of the complaints came from the hospital or someone associated with the hospital.”
After complaints were leveled against him, Wilkinson on Jan. 21, 2022, sent a letter to the WMC. “I spent a lot of time working on that letter to the state,” he said.
“I discussed the fact, first of all, that I appreciated the licensing commission [and] that there are doctors who clearly do [harmful] things and we need somebody to monitor and take care of it … I stated that I understand that you have gotten complaints about me and my work.
“I went on and talked about what I did do and I said very clearly that if I’m doing something bad for patients, then please have some of your people get in touch with me and demonstrate this to me with good data. I’m happy to change what I do.”
“But did they ever contact me? They didn’t,” he said.
Wilkinson said one of the reasons complaints were filed against him with the WMC was because he “didn’t speak positively” about the COVID-19 vaccine on his blog.
He wrote in an April 22, 2021, post:
“We have historically lived in a free country and, thus, the choices you make regarding your health have always been considered to be entirely up to you. Unfortunately, that freedom might be coming to an end with the rise of a tyrannical state.
“In my historical American perspective, the decision to get the COVID-19 ‘vaccine’ should be entirely up to you and not coerced by some bureaucrat living in a distant city, mattering not whether that city is Olympia or Washington, DC.”
“Should you get the ‘vaccination’?” Wilkinson wrote. “Clearly, in my view, that should be entirely your choice. But if you would like my perspective, I would strongly urge you not to get the Covid ‘vaccine’ — at least not yet. Why? Because we really have no idea whether it is safe and whether the downsides might be significantly worse than any potential upside.”
For his alleged offenses, the WMC placed Wilkinson on a five-year probation and issued him a $15,000 fine.
Cole, a pathologist based in Idaho who is licensed in multiple states including Washington, also was a vocal critic of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Cole alleges he suffered loss of income and reputational loss due to WMC’s punitive actions against him. “I have suffered other damages, including $50,000 in attorney fees in the defense of my Washington license,” Cole said.
This article was corrected to clarify that Dr. Renata Moon was not punished directly by the WMC but was negatively affected by its COVID-19 Misinformation Position Statement.