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Dr. Meryl Nass today filed suit against the Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine and its individual members, alleging the board violated her First Amendment rights and her rights under the Maine Constitution.
The complaint alleges the board engaged in retaliatory conduct against Nass, a practicing internal medicine physician and member of the Children’s Health Defense (CHD) scientific advisory board, when the board suspended her medical license for publicly expressing her dissenting views on official COVID-19 policies, the COVID-19 vaccine and alternative treatments.
“Because she was outspoken, the board targeted Dr. Nass as someone to silence,” her attorney, Gene Libby told The Defender.
In fall 2021, the board issued a position statement, quoted in the complaint, stating that licensees could face disciplinary action if they “generate and spread COVID-19 vaccine misinformation or disinformation.”
In October 2021, soon after the statement was issued, the board received a complaint alleging Nass was spreading misinformation online and soon after launched an investigation.
The board suspended Nass’ medical license on Jan. 12, 2022, without a hearing, accusing her of engaging in “unprofessional conduct” by spreading “misinformation about COVID-19.”
It also accused her of improperly prescribing hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin for three patients for off-label uses of those drugs.
The board suspended Nass’ license and ordered a neuropsychological evaluation, implying she was mentally impaired or a substance abuser and incompetent to practice medicine.
“There were no grounds to order a mental health examination,” Libby said. “That was simply a means to communicate to the public that there was something wrong with Dr. Nass, to discredit her and tarnish her reputation.”
After Nass moved to have the board dismiss its complaint against her, alleging First Amendment violations, the board on Sept. 26, 2022, withdrew its accusations of “misinformation”, just prior to her first hearing date, Oct. 11, 2022.
The board’s case now rests on Nass’ alleged non-adherence to the medical “standard of care” as it pertained to ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19 and on the alleged “record-keeping” issues.
Nass told The Defender:
“The two primary complaints against me were that my statements were misleading and that I was prescribing drugs off-label. My speech — which I should note, was not simply opinion, it was an educated opinion developed after consulting the medical literature — is protected by the First Amendment.
“And prescribing drugs off-label is a perfectly legal thing to do, as explicitly stated on the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] website. Somewhere between 20-50% of drugs are prescribed off-label. The lawyers on the board staff know all of this. It’s their job to know the law with respect to medicine.
“They didn’t do this because they thought I had committed some kind of violation. They did it because they thought I’m older and I wouldn’t have the money to challenge them and so they could get away with it — they thought they could turn me into a poster child to scare all the doctors in the country.
“It is part of this broader attempt by the U.S. government and governments across the world to criminalize dissent by criminalizing so-called ‘misinformation.’”
Libby said the remaining allegations against Dr. Nass “are simply a pretext to discipline her. Because now, from an institutional standpoint, the board has to do something. She’s been under suspension for 19 months, which is the longest suspension that I’m aware of for any physician in the state.”
The board refused to schedule hearings on Nass’ suspension on consecutive days. Instead, it has held one day of hearings every other month. There have been six days of hearings so far over 10 months — and Nass’ license has been suspended the entire time.
“This is fundamentally unfair to Dr. Nass, but she’s within the grip of an institution that doesn’t want her speaking out,” Libby said.
In her lawsuit, Nass alleges the board and its members used their power to “crush dissenting views and chill disfavored speech.”
Nass is asking the court for declaratory relief, for an injunction to stop the board from continuing to retaliate against her and for monetary damages and legal fees.
CHD is providing financial and legal resources to Nass’ Maine-based legal team.
CHD President Mary Holland told The Defender:
“CHD is proud to support Dr. Nass’ lawsuit against the Maine medical board and its individual members.
“The board and its members have deprived Dr. Nass of her license and livelihood for over a year with no basis whatsoever. This kind of censorship, intimidation and punishment of doctors of conscience must stop.
“People need independent, thoughtful, caring physicians like Dr. Nass to be honored, not hounded as the board has done.
“I am pleased to see this case move forward in the courts in the interests of justice, for Dr. Nass, her patients and the broader society.”
Board provided resources to ‘combat spread of vaccine misinformation’
The Maine board’s Fall 2021 position statement expressed its support for a statement by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) — a private organization with no regulatory authority — which threatened physicians “who generate and spread COVID-19 vaccine misinformation” with suspension or revocation of their medical license.
According to the statement, physicians have a high degree of public trust and therefore a responsibility to “share information that is factual, scientifically grounded and consensus-driven for the betterment of public health.”
The Maine board’s statement endorsed the FSMB statement, encouraged physicians to address misinformation when encountered, directed physicians to use circulated materials from the American Medical Association (AMA) and said that questioning the COVID-19 vaccine qualifies as “misinformation,” according to the complaint.
The AMA materials provide scripts, talking points and strategies for “combating the spread of vaccine misinformation.”
The Maine board’s chair, Dr. Maroulla Gleaton, is also an FSMB director.
Nass is a widely recognized expert on the anthrax vaccine and biological warfare. She testified before Congress six times and was quoted in major media outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.
She has also been a prominent critic of governmental handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the suppression of effective treatments such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine and the safety and risks of the vaccine — all topics she has discussed in her Substack, on the radio, in interviews and elsewhere.
But, the complaint notes, her positions have been in conflict with those asserted in the position statement and the resources it highlights as “supporting the fight against COVID-19 misinformation.”
This was merely an attempt by the board to justify its decision to immediately suspend Nass and to intimidate her, the complaint alleges.
Board’s only concern was ‘silencing’ Nass and ‘branding her as crazy’
When Nass questioned the board’s authority to investigate a complaint unrelated to the practice of medicine and instead “focused entirely on a statement made in her private life,” the board responded, on Oct. 14, 2021, that she was engaged in “alleged unprofessional conduct” by provisioning “misleading and/or inaccurate” information.
In the January board meeting where the board decided to suspend her license, the conversation focused on Nass’ “unprofessional conduct due to the spreading of misinformation about COVID-19.”
The board also cited three matters related to treating patients, alleging Nass improperly diagnosed a patient “over the phone,” that she had provided misinformation to a pharmacist about why she was prescribing ivermectin for a patient, and that she had improperly issued another prescription.
On Sept. 7, 2022, Nass moved to dismiss the complaint, alleging the board was violating her First Amendment rights.
The board responded by withdrawing all charges based on her speech, retaining only the charges related to the treatment of three patients.
Libby told The Defender that through the entire investigation and hearings, the board never even spoke to the three patients. It did not inform them their medical records had been subpoenaed, or ask them about their treatment by Dr. Nass.
“Yet the remaining disciplinary charges are all predicated on Dr. Nass’ consultation with and advice to these patients.”
Libby called the patients to testify in Nass’ hearings. They all made “glowing comments” about her availability, her medical advice and her handling of their cases and expressed anger that Nass was being targeted by the board for their cases.
Libby said he interpreted this to indicate the board’s singular focus was not to ensure patient well-being, but rather “silencing Dr. Nass and attempting to brand her as crazy.”
According to the complaint, the board’s animus against Nass is also demonstrated by the fact that it is flouting its own rules for selecting and paying expert witnesses.
Board guidelines stipulate that witnesses can be paid a maximum of $125/hour for preparation and $175/hour for testimony and that the witnesses should have the same specialty as the practitioner in question and be licensed to practice in Maine.
But the board is paying Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency room physician from Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, $500/hour to testify.
And board member Gleaton, who has conflicts of interest because of her position as FSMB director and has acted in openly mocking ways, has refused to recuse herself.
The next medical board hearing is set for mid-September.
But in the meantime, Libby said “The actions of the board are so outrageous, they need to be acted on legally.”
Watch Meryl’s interview on CHD.TV: