Gov. DeSantis backs permanent ‘freedom of speech’ protections for docs, anti-vax mandates

Ron DeSantis
The new bill also will include protections for religious freedoms.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is calling for sweeping new COVID-19 legislation that would make permanent bans on vaccine and mask mandates, while blocking anyone from taking actions against doctors who disagree with “the preferred narrative of the medical community.”

DeSantis, who has made his opposition to COVID-19 restrictions a central part of his political identity over the last two-plus years, billed his latest set of legislative recommendations as a way to combat the “biomedical security state.”

“Sometimes you have to say enough is enough,” DeSantis said during an event held in Panama City Beach that was punctuated with frequent cheering, applause and booing from an animated crowd. “It’s insane, it’s irrational.”

U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo joined DeSantis at the spirited press conference which also featured comments from a number of people who shared their anti-vaccination sentiments.

House Democratic leader Fentrice Driskell held a media availability following DeSantis’ press availability, calling it “strange.”

Driskell, a Democrat from Tampa, argued DeSantis has become the No. 1 peddler of a dangerous message from the anti-vax establishment. “It’s a fake ideology with real consequences.”

The Governor’s Office did not provide detailed legislation, but did distribute a one-page sheet dubbed “Prescribe Freedom” highlighting some of the details.

Florida legislators met in a Special Session in November 2021 and agreed to ban vaccine mandates for both private and public employers and bar mask mandates in schools. But that law, which authorized the Department of Legal Affairs to sanction businesses that violated the law up to $50,000, is scheduled to sunset on June 1.

DeSantis said he wants to keep those bans intact permanently. He said at the time that few would have predicted a need to keep those bans in place for a longer period of time. But DeSantis said on Tuesday there continues to be a push for vaccine and mask mandates.

“It’s just nuts we are still doing this,” DeSantis said. “We believe there’s no turning back from our direction.”

A key part of DeSantis’ proposal would also seek to “protect medical professionals’ freedom of speech.”

Last year, the Governor backed bills (HB 687 and SB 1184) that would bar state medical boards from reprimanding, sanctioning or threatening to revoke a medical license from a health care practitioner based on comments made by the practitioner, including on social media platforms such as Twitter.

The bills also limited who could file complaints against physicians to the physicians’ patients. Under the proposals, the state would be banned from reprimand, sanctioning, revoking or threatening to revoke a license, certificate, or registration of a health care practitioner for his or her speech, unless the state could prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the health care practitioner’s speech led to the direct physical harm of a patient.

If the state could not prove beyond reasonable doubt the health care provider’s speech led to a patient’s harm, the Senate bill would have required the state to pay the health care provider $1.5 million. The House deleted the $1.5 million fine from its version of the proposal.

Ultimately, though, neither proposal made it through the committee process and the bill was one of the few health care issues the DeSantis administration supported that didn’t make it through the process.

The Prescribe Freedom document shows the upcoming proposal also will protect the “religious views of all medical professionals.” The 2022 legislation did not include protections for religion.

Meanwhile, California lawmakers last year passed a law that would let medical boards take disciplinary action against doctors who spread false information about COVID-19. That new law was immediately challenged by lawsuits, according to media reports.

“We want to protect people’s ability to follow the evidence and choose evidence over narrative,” DeSantis said to a cheering crowd.

Organized medicine, though, did not support the 2022 proposal.

The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) is a nonprofit organization representing 71 state medical and osteopathic boards across the nation and in United States’ territories.

It issued a report in April 2022 on information and disinformation compiled by its Ethics and Professionalism Committee.

The report recommends licensing boards adopt policy expectations regarding the dissemination of misinformation and disinformation.

Moreover, the report recommends members of state medical boards consider the, “full array of authorized grounds for disciplinary action” and, when appropriate, members should consider “whether there are options that do not involve disciplinary action that could help a licensee understand the ethical basis of their duty to convey accurate information to patients and the public and change or remediate their behavior appropriately.”

For providers, the FSMB report says physicians’ recommendations regarding proposed or potential treatments of illnesses or conditions must be supported by the best available scientific evidence or prevailing scientific consensus.

In the absence of available evidence or consensus, the FSMB report says that “physicians must only proceed when there is an appropriate scientific rationale and justification for a proposed treatment, in relation to the patient’s symptoms or condition, and the risks and benefits of the approach are understood by the patient in an informed consent that is documented in the medical record. Novel, experimental and unproven interventions should only be proposed when traditional or accepted and proven treatment modalities have been exhausted.”

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


  • Lauren Sally

    January 17, 2023 at 6:12 pm

    My family member listen to this nonsense and he loved DeSantis & Trump. They caught COVID and died. I’ll never forgive Trump and DeSantis for this pandering and pseudoscience.

    • Conservative_always

      January 18, 2023 at 9:44 am

      I will take things that never happened for a hundred Alex.

  • Sylvia

    January 17, 2023 at 7:58 pm

    I love that he is doing this. We as individuals have the freedom to choose. I talked with my Dr and made a decision that was right for me. You talk to your Dr and make the decision that is right for you. Had Covid and it wasn’t fun but I lived. I know others got it and died, others got it and lived. A lot of people died from other causes and it was listed as Covid. People who took the “vaccine” still got it and died. I’m sorry for all those who died from Covid. Death is a grief no one wants to go thru no matter the cause of death. My Dr should not be “disciplined” because of a choice we made together that was right for me. You want to wear a mask and take the vaccine please do so that is what is right for you. No judgement here. I don’t want to wear a mask. It makes it difficult to breath for me. I’ve tried numerous times so I choose to go without. I choose not to get the vaccine. I’m going to does of something. If it’s Covid so be it. No matter I’ll die of something. So I’ll live bravely until then and so should you. But don’t “ mandate” me to confirm to what you want. ITS MY CHOICE

    • brian staver

      January 18, 2023 at 10:54 am

      Thank you for being so selfish. What happens to those you spread your virus to. They did not have a choice to allow you to get them sick, did they? No, they did not! So, you infringed on their constitutional rights to life liberty and their pursuit of happiness. You obviously are uneducated and have no idea what happens when a virus mutates. When a virus mutates it can get better or worse in its ability to kill and it can reinfect you and kill you. So, take your sympathy your freedom of choice (in this matter) and place where the sun does not shine because you are part of the problem not a solution.

  • Ron DeSantis sucks

    January 17, 2023 at 11:43 pm

    My friend’s mother listened to Ron DeSantis’ anti-vaccination views and died from it when she contracted COVID-19.

    • Conservative_always

      January 18, 2023 at 9:46 am

      My mother’s haridresser’s brother’s girlfriends cousin’s nephew listened to Ron DeSantis and DIED!!

  • ronaisevil

    January 18, 2023 at 7:46 am

    How ironic that Rona trumpets telling a private property owner that she can’t require visitors to wear a mask or be vaccinated against a deadly virus yet is fine with having an underage rape victim be forced to bear her rapist’s child even when it puts the victim’s life at risk. How convenient that Rona forgets his early executive orders restricting liberty during the first months of the Covid pandemic. Guess he doesn’t care about truth, freedom, or private property rights. Good gracious!

  • brian staver

    January 18, 2023 at 10:33 am

    Death Santis has indirectly killed tens of thousands of Floridians during his term of office. By reelecting him to office Florida voters approved of his actions. I hope those of you that voted for him do not have to undergo the death of a family member(s) due to a virus. It really does come down to common sense. If you are being shot at you get out of the way of the bullets. You do not say I only got shot a little bit, so it is ok to shoot me. Why not use common sense medical advice to reduce if not eliminate the possibility of getting seriously ill.

  • Virologist

    January 18, 2023 at 2:35 pm

    This will clearly fix a lot of problems this country has. All the non-science based voters get to do what they want, and the vaccinated get to survive and vote.

Comments are closed.


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