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Suspended doctor sues Maine medical board over free speech rights

An Ellsworth doctor whose license was suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic has filed a federal lawsuit against Maine’s medical board, alleging officials tried to suppress her First Amendment rights.

Dr. Meryl Nass was a prominent and vocal critic of the prevailing medical doctrine toward COVID-19 both in Maine and nationally. She has questioned the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in interviews and on her blog as well as admitted lying to a pharmacist so a patient could obtain an anti-viral drug, hydroxychloroquine, that was not authorized to treat COVID.

The Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine responded in Jan. 2022 by temporarily suspending Nass's license as it investigated complaints against her. The board, which is largely made up of medical professionals, accused Nass of spreading misinformation and failing to follow proper procedures in telemedicine and record-keeping.

Nass' license remains suspended, although the board backed off the misinformation charges. And this week, Nass filed suit in U.S. District Court accusing the board of violating her free speech rights by attempting to suppress her views on COVID. The lawsuit also accuses the board of pursuing her under an “unconstitutionally vague” law.

Nass’ attorneys could not be reached for comment on Friday. But in a video posted online, Nass accused the board and the state of retaliating against her because of her outspokenness.

"Telling me that I can't talk about the vaccine or I can't talk about the treatment of COVID or masks or distancing, even when the things that I was saying were based on published medical literature, that is a First Amendment violation,” Nass said in the video from Children’s Health Defense. “The state government and the federal government are not allowed to restrict the speech of people. So we are looking for a jury trial to see whether the Board of Licensure in Medicine is guilty of a malicious, political prosecution and targeting of me.”

Children's Health Defense is a national group headed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that critics contend is a major purveyor of anti-vaccination information. Facebook and Instagram removed the organization’s accounts last August because the social media platforms said Children’s Health Defense had repeatedly violated their policies regarding spreading medical misinformation during the pandemic.

Kennedy, who is running against President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination next year, and his group have helped pay for Nass' costly defense against the licensing board. That process is still ongoing. The organization is now promoting her First Amendment lawsuit nationally.

Officials at the Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine did not respond to a request for comment on Friday. A recent investigation by The Washington Post found that there were few repercussions for doctors who were accused of spreading misinformation during the COVID pandemic or for prescribing medications not recommended to treat the virus.