Med school threatens to fire doctors for talking to news media

By WND Staff

 

As private institutions, New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine and its Langone Health medical center not subject to First Amendment restraints on the power of government to limit freedom of speech.

Legally, they can censor their doctors.

But the non-profit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, contends that’s a really bad idea, especially when those experts are being sought out by media to talk about the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is precisely in times of crisis that it is most important that lines of communication to the public be open,” said Robert Shibley, the executive director of FIRE. “These faculty members are there because they’re the experts. Inhibiting their ability to communicate important information about COVID-19 presents enormous risks.”

He was refering to the university’s rule that all communications be cleared ahead of time, which means “a comment to the press may mean termination.”

Faculty physicians cannot speak with reporters about COVID-19 without “express approval from the office of communications and marketing.”

“NYU has muzzled its faculty,” FIRE said in a letter to Steven Abramson, the vice dean for education, faculty and academic affairs as Grossman.

“These policies bar NYU faculty from speaking to journalists without institutional permission and thus function as a prior restraint on faculty speech.”

FIRE said: “Though the NYU Grossman School of Medicine is a private institution, and is not bound by the First Amendment, requiring faculty to obtain permission before speaking to the press is antithetical to the values of our free society. This is especially true when the threat of punishment appears intended to chill speech of intense public concern involving matters of life and death amidst a global pandemic.”

The activist group pointed out that another coalition of medical, research and civil rights organizations already had called on the American Hospital Association to denounce the curb on the speech of health care workers.

“Attempts to cover up these shortages by muzzling health care workers who are on the front lines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic are reprehensible and reckless and endanger public health,” wrote Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group and author of the organizations’ letter.

FIRE said NYU should rescind its policy “so that the nation may gain a clear understanding of their valiant work, the daunting challenges they face, and how all of us may best help them.”

The letter said, “To meet the challenge of this terrible time, FIRE urges you to rescind the threat of punishment against your faculty.”

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