Open letter regarding SB276/714 to Governor Newsom:
(Sent to the Office)
Dear Governor Newsom,
My name is Dr. Dane Fliedner, and I am a board certified, California-licensed pediatrician in Orange County. In addition to my medical training, I also hold a Master’s Degree in Public Health and at one point in my career was considering a career in Maternal-Child Public Health, interning at the OC Health Department and traveling to Sacramento with the local health officer to learn about the advocacy aspect of public health. I was one of the earliest recipients of Medical Board of California Service awards for my work in an under-served community. Since that time, I have also worked in Pediatric Emergency Medicine and have seen first-hand the devastation that severe bacterial infections can have on small children. I mention all of these things so that you are very clear that I am not against vaccines. I administer them daily in my pediatric practice and my own children are vaccinated and are not vaccine-injured.
I know you are receiving many letters, including from physicians, but wanted to share an aspect of SB277 and now SB276/714 that you may not have considered—and that is the fact that these bills have created a climate of fear and anxiety. There are many physicians in practice that have been afraid to speak up for fear of retribution, of being targeted by the state, for public censure and loss of professional respect for speaking up regarding these laws—because that is what we often observe happening from what appears to be vindictive agendas by those in power against anyone who dares speak up.
I know that in the past you pioneered the march in standing up for issues and groups when it was not necessarily politically prudent to do so— standing up for LGBTQ rights as the Mayor of San Francisco, and pushing for legalization of medicinal use of cannabis. Today, as you are aware, our children are sick, and only getting sicker. Many of these children are medically fragile and in many cases have seemingly been hurt by vaccines. However, these kids are treated like second class citizens, and their parents are labelled with pejoratives by members of our political, media and medical communities in a way that would be absolutely unacceptable if similar wording was used toward a gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic group. These bills will only serve to systematize further stigma and alienation of these families. I believe that one day, Mr. Newsom, we are going to be judged very harshly by history for the way this issue was handled, and that these pleas were ignored. In the same way we shake our head in disbelief today at the historical issues around tobacco industry, the indiscriminate use of chemicals like DDT, the Tuskegee Syphilis study, etc, I believe the wholesale ignoring and marginalizing these families will not be looked upon favorably in the future.
I applaud your efforts to amend some of the aspects of the bill but I do not believe that it is going to have the effects you believe it will. The current legislation and the information that has surfaced recently have made it abundantly clear what the intention is of the authors of the bill. Although SB277 promised it was up to the discretion of the physician who was at risk and therefore qualified for an exemption, the fact is that the ex post facto nature of what is being now attempted by SB276 to prosecute physicians who were trying to consider the needs of their fragile patients outside of the very strict and narrow CDC contraindication guidelines has sent a chilling effect to any and all physicians in this state. Even with your amendments, I do not believe I will be writing any more exemptions, even when I feel like they would be appropriate. I do not believe anyone else will, either, as the recent video that surfaced where 800+ practices were called to get a medical exemption and were denied. I am not surprised. I have had to put a complete moratorium on medical exemptions due to the nature of this legislation.
How could we not refuse? This bill has made it impossible not to do so. We are no longer allowed to charge for our services. We are only allowed to send 4 exemptions per year lest we hit the immediate investigation trigger of the 5th exemption. How do we decide that this child gets it, but this one does not? Do you realize how many mothers I have had in my office in tears, angry at me because I would not write them an exemption? Do you realize these families, by being kicked out of their previous practice, have nowhere to go for medical care for their children? This is why there are clusters of doctors writing the exemptions. No one else will even care for these children, let alone consider an exemption for them.
Is this the legacy we want for the way we handled our most medically fragile children? Do we want to create a state where physicians are afraid to do the right thing for fear of retribution and loss? Do we really want a society where we are creating a new underclass? Is this the California of the future? Is this the side of history you want to be on, Governor?
I do not believe you do, and therefore I am asking you to veto this bill.
Dane Fliedner, MD, MPH
Aliso Viejo, CA
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