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Doc Tracy California

Doc Tracy and the Case of the California Medical Misinformation Bill

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In the first and only episode of the web series, Doc Tracy, Physician Investigator, the titular character, a tall, world-weary PI, attired in a carefully branded white fedora and flowing physician’s coat, sets out to investigate Kristina Lawson, a land use lawyer and local Walnut Creek politician who came to serve as president of the Medical Board of California. Her crime: hunting doctors she deemed guilty of wrongthink.

Although somewhat clever in concept, the single episode was also somewhat of a disjointed mess in tone, style, and plot. Roughly the first 13 minutes of the 21-minute episode come off as something of a PBS kids science show from the 1990s in which detectives from the 1940s have access to high-tech gadgets developed by screenwriters from the 1980s. 

After those first 13 minutes, which are kicked off by three or four stylistically inconsistent introductions and followed by some lessons on vaccine safety and effectiveness presented by Doc Tracy, the physician investigator eventually leaves his office for a series of mildly amusing, black and white, man-on-the-street interviews in which he asks passersby questions along the lines of “If you had a problem with your sink, who would you call? An electrician or a plumber?” and “Who would you expect to be found as director of a state medical board? A doctor? A lawyer? An engineer?” As everyone answers his questions with the most glaringly obvious options, the absurdity of Lawson holding her position is hammered home.

After a few rounds of this routine though, the show takes an abrupt turn as Doc Tracy, microphone in hand, rushes off dramatically to confront Lawson in a well-lit parking garage for the episode’s climatic scene. During the confrontation, the intrepid physician investigator questions Lawson about her qualifications for her position and her thoughts on calls from the Federation of State Medical Boards to discipline doctors who spread alleged misinformation. Lawson responds by calling the police.

On the other side of the fourth wall, the confrontation between Lawson and Doc Tracy, played by former UCLA anesthesiologist, Dr. Christopher Rake, took place on December 6, 2021. Two days later on December 8, Lawson took to Twitter to condemn Rake and the medical freedom organization that produced the show, America’s Frontline Doctors, then went on a media blitz the following week, making appearances on CNN and MSNBC to characterize the confrontation as an attempt to intimidate and terrorize. 

Yet, regardless of what one may think of the production quality of the show or the guerrilla gonzo-style adopted by Rake and AFLD, it is difficult to argue that what they did constitutes intimidation or an attempt to terrorize. Rake questioned a public official about her qualifications for her job and her stance on a relevant policy matter in a seemingly public place for a documentary web series. 

Moreover, according to a Newsweek article from December 9, a spokesperson for local Walnut Creek police claimed they had no evidence that anything Rake or his associates had done was illegal. Recent email exchanges with representatives from the Walnut Creek Police Department and the local sheriff’s and district attorney’s offices for the purposes of this article also indicated there is no active investigation of the incident and that a referral for prosecution was never made. 

In an October 2022 phone interview, Rake described his actions on December 6 as “First Amendment-protected speech” intended to bring awareness to the threat posed to patients and doctors by bureaucratic and government attempts to prevent physicians from sharing expert opinions contrary to the party line.

Prior to October 2021, Dr. Christopher Rake was a mild-mannered anesthesiologist, who spent 15 of his 17 years as a physician working at UCLA. When Covid hit, he worked through the pandemic for over a year, sometimes with Covid patients. He knew the disease could be serious for some. Yet, he was never confident in vaccines that were being developed at warp speed.

In an October 2021 interview with The College Fix, he stated explicitly that he thought they were terrible vaccines. Coronaviruses mutate fast. This one, like SARS and MERS, can hide out in animal reservoirs. Plus, he said, previous attempts to develop coronavirus vaccines sometimes elicited serious side-effects. 

When the state of California mandated Covid vaccination for healthcare workers late in the summer of 2021, Rake decided he would take a stand. He refused to receive a vaccine he believed would be unlikely to work and that would possibly harm him. For doing this, on October 4, Rake was escorted from the UCLA medical facility at which he worked.

Since then, life has taken some interesting turns for Rake. He has been active in medical freedom organizations, including America’s Frontline Doctors and Citizens United for Freedom, the latter of which Rake founded. He traveled to Washington, DC to meet with Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin to discuss healthcare policy. And, he became a vocal advocate against government attempts to censor physicians in the state of California.

In an October 2022 phone interview, Rake discussed this battle at length, explaining how he believes crackdowns on doctors for sharing expert opinions contrary to government policy are egregious violations of the First Amendment that fail to withstand constitutional scrutiny and how he has attempted to fight back against a Newspeak – comprised of vague and ill-defined terms such as “misinformation,” “disinformation,” “scientific consensus,” and “standards of care” – used to threaten and punish any doctor that steps out of line.

Strictly speaking, Rake explained, misinformation is essentially any information provided by a doctor to a patient that “goes against the scientific consensus and the standard of care,” while disinformation is “misinformation [spread] with malicious intent or the intent to cause harm.” However, he believes, there are numerous problems with these definitions, starting with the questions of “Who determines [what is] misinformation?” and “What is a scientific consensus?”

“Is there an arbiter who is up to date with all the scientific evidence…[who] can say for sure that this is the settled science and it’s not going to change?” Rake asked. “And is the person an MD? Published? What is their training to determine what misinformation is and what disinformation is?”

Over the course of the pandemic, Rake noted, the supposed scientific consensus changed on a number of issues. Up until some uncertain date in 2020, the scientific consensus on most masks was they were ineffective at preventing the transmission of respiratory viruses. Early in the pandemic Anthony Fauci was dismissive of widespread masking. As late as May 2020 a WHO-supported, CDC-published, meta-analysis of 14 mask studies failed to find evidence for the utility of surgical-type face masks in reducing influenza transmission. But then, before long, without any change in the available evidence, the scientific consensus was that masks work.

Likewise, said Rake, the WHO has been all over the place on whether Covid could be transmitted via surfaces or through airborne transmission. 

And, on the matter of Covid vaccines, he noted. “[Government officials] said the vaccines were the only treatment, the only way out of this. They were going to stop transmission. They were going to stop you from getting infected. And everyone said it: Fauci, Biden. Trump, Wolensky, the CDC, the FDA. They all said these things and they were all proven false.”

Now, explained Rake, “everyone admits these do not stop you from getting the disease or transmitting it” as there is now “evidence that these things don’t work”. 

“Even those that are pro-Covid shots, they admit that they do not stop you from getting the disease or transmitting it,” Rake added.

At best, Rake said, the Covid shots are “therapeutic[s] that [have] to be given in advance.” 

To provide an analogous scenario, he said, “It’s like telling someone, ‘Hey, if you get diabetes, you need to take this medication…[but] you have to take it before you get diabetes. In case you get diabetes, then it will help. [But] then you find out it doesn’t really help that much with the diabetes – and it causes heart disease.”

Additionally, Rake asked, rhetorically, “How do they determine intent? How do you know whether a doctor is maliciously spreading misinformation or just telling his patient that he doesn’t believe this [medical intervention] is right for the patient?”

Needless to say, Rake found himself troubled when the Federation of State Medical Boards’ Board of Directors released a statement in July 2021, declaring, “Physicians who generate and spread COVID-19 vaccine misinformation or disinformation are risking disciplinary action by state medical boards, including the suspension or revocation of their medical license…” 

Although the FSMB’s statement was not legally binding and the FSMB had no authority to discipline physicians directly, Rake was concerned that the Medical Board of California or his state government might follow the FSMB’s call, in essence, to prevent doctors from sharing opinions corporate, bureaucratic, or government officials don’t like.

“It’s going to eliminate second opinions,” said Rake. “There is no such thing as second opinions because [the scientific consensus is] going to be whatever the pharmaceutical agencies say. The FDA approves a pharmaceutical intervention, it is by definition going to be the scientific consensus.”  

Troubled by these possibilities, Rake thus assumed the persona of Doc Tracy, Physician Investigator, for that single misadventure in the hope of bringing attention to the issue. A month later in January 2022, three months before anyone actually saw the Doc Tracy video, Lawson and the MBC sent a letter to Toni Atkins, President pro tempore of the California State Senate, requesting legislation that would make it easier for the MCB to punish physicians accused of professional misconduct. 

A month after that in February, AB2098 was introduced, “designat[ing] the dissemination of misinformation or disinformation related to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, or ‘COVID-19,’ as unprofessional conduct.” Later legislative analyses following the release of the Doc Tracy episode specifically cited Rake’s actions and the video as examples of why the bill was necessary.

As the bill was mulled by the state legislature, Rake said he continued to fight against it. He and members of CUFF “were really pushing hard to just put some political pressure on [state officials].”

“[We were] making phone calls to the governor and writing emails,” stated Rake. “We were calling and writing to the legislators before they passed it…We had some of our sister and brother groups out there in Sacramento, talking to legislators.”

However their efforts were to no avail. In September 2022 the bill was passed. 

Given the timeline of events and discussions of his actions in the legislative analysis for the bill, Rake acknowledged, “In one sense the bill [was] passed because of what I did,” before slightly backtracking, adding, “They’re using that as a pretext. [But] I think they would have passed it anyway.”

As a consequence of the bill’s passage, Rake believes this may be the end of any meaningful doctor-patient relationship based on trust or respect in the state of California.

“What’s going to happen,” he said, “is you’re going to see so many doctors who are afraid of going against the party line.” 

When the government says a new Covid shot is safe after testing it on only eight mice, “What’s going to happen,” Rake stated, “is you’re going to go to your doctor and you’re going to say, ‘Doc, hey, are these new boosters safe?’ And he’s going to look around, make sure nobody’s listening, and then he’s going to think in his head, ‘We have no freaking clue!’ But he can’t say that because what is he [also] thinking: ‘I’ve got my student loans to pay. I’ve got my mortgage. I’ve got my family. I spent my whole life trying to become a doctor. I can lose it if I say the wrong thing here.’ So he’s going to tell the patient, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t really say. And even that amount of doubting and, you know, waiting and hedging, could be prosecuted by the California Medical Board.”

Rake speculated, “They could say, ‘Look, you didn’t tell a patient, you didn’t tell them that it was clearly safe when they asked you. And they said you hemmed and you hawed and that you didn’t give them a clear answer. Right? We think that you are spreading misinformation.’”

“It’s going to lead to mistrust. Right?” Rake said. “What patient is going to trust their doctor? You go to your doctor and he’s not going to be able to tell you the truth because he’s under a gag order, essentially. He can’t share with you any data or evidence that are contrary or contradictory to the government’s position.”

“This is like Nazi Germany. This is like Stalin’s Russia,” the physician added, distraught. “I mean, it’s really kind of creepy. And they’re going to send in mock patients. They’ll send in moles.”

And it won’t stop with Covid, he predicted. “A patient will go up and ask the doctor and ask, ‘What do you think of this pharmaceutical drug that just got approved?’ or ‘What do you think about this new vaccine?’ And if the doctor has any hesitation or says anything that’s potentially negative, he can get nailed.”

“So now you’re going to have a mistrust from the doctors to the patients as well,” stated Rake.

“You’re destroying…whatever vestige is left of [the] doctor-patient relationship…” he said. “Doctors are not going to trust the patients. Patients are not going to trust the doctors.”

Author

  • Daniel Nuccio

    Daniel Nuccio holds master's degrees in both psychology and biology. Currently, he is pursuing a PhD in biology at Northern Illinois University studying host-microbe relationships. He is also a regular contributor to The College Fix where he writes about COVID, mental health, and other topics.


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