Doctors in British Columbia are being warned they could face investigation or penalties from their regulatory body if they contradict public health orders or guidance about COVID-19.
The warning is contained in a joint statement from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. and the First Nations Health Authority.
The statement says the college and authority have become aware that some B.C. physicians oppose vaccines and are spreading "misinformation" about mask wearing, physical distancing and lockdowns.
There's also concern that certain doctors are promoting COVID-19 treatments "not supported by widely accepted scientific evidence."
Dr. Heidi Oetter, registrar and CEO of the college, says the misinformation breaches public trust and is contrary to a doctor's ethical obligations.
She says doctors who veer from accepted COVID-19 health orders and guidelines could face an investigation or regulatory action, if the college considers it warranted.
"Physicians must be guided by the laws that govern them, regulatory practice standards and guidelines, the Code of Ethics and Professionalism, and scientific evidence when giving their opinions about COVID-19," the statement says.
Dr. Nel Wieman, acting deputy chief medical officer of the First Nations Health Authority, says the harm caused by misleading and unsupported information is evident across B.C., particularly in Indigenous communities.
"Indigenous people already face barriers to accessing health care due to systemic racism," Wieman says in the statement.
"Misleading information adds another barrier at a time when the COVID-19 vaccine needs to be delivered to Indigenous people as quickly as possible."
Both Wieman and Oetter are calling on doctors to ensure the safety of patients is not jeopardized by misinformation during the pandemic.