TORONTO — An Ontario physician has been issued three cautions by the province’s regulatory college for doctors after her tweets about the COVID-19 pandemic were found to be “inappropriate” and “unprofessional.”
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) conducted a hearing in February to look into multiple complaints made against Dr. Kulvinder Kaur Gill about her social media posts last summer.
The complainants were concerned that Gill appeared to be “willfully spreading false and misleading information regarding COVID-19 that goes directly against the advice and recommendations of local, provincial, and federal medical/science and public health authorities.”
Some of the tweets that were flagged include, “COVID-19 is not a serious health issue” and, “There is absolutely no medical or scientific reason for prolonged, harmful and illogical lockdown.”
The findings by a panel of the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee were posted on Gill’s page on the CPSO website.
While it is valid to question whether lockdowns are effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19, the panel said Gill tweeted her claims without providing any evidence. They added that her statement is “inaccurate” and does not align with public health guidance.
The panel pointed out the success of lockdowns in China and South Korea to curb the spread of the disease.
“For the respondent to state otherwise is misinformed and misleading and furthermore an irresponsible statement to make on social medial during a pandemic,” the panel stated.
They noted that Gill also did not provide any proof to support her tweet alleging a vaccine is unnecessary. Her statement is a “potential risk to public health,” especially in the middle of the pandemic, the panel said.
“It would be expected and understandable if a certain proportion of the general public who read this statement decided to decline the vaccine with the assurance that they are acting on the guidance of a physician.”
The panel also found it concerning that Gill retweeted, “Contact tracing, testing and isolation … is ineffective, naïve and counter-productive against COVID-19 …and by definition, against any pandemic.”
While Gill said she did not write it, the panel stated that posting an original tweet and retweeting “both indicate an endorsement of the information.”
They said it is okay to debate whether contract tracing, testing, and isolation are efficient in fighting the pandemic but it is “indefensible” that Gill “declared without evidence that these measures are counterproductive.”
In response to the complaints, Gill said her tweets were taken out of context, to which the panel said tweets “by their very nature have minimal context.”
Gill also claimed that she tweeted from a personal account that has no affiliation to her practice. However, the panel stated Gill’s Twitter biography “makes it clear that she is a physician and also identifies her as the leader of a group of physicians, Concerned Ontario Doctors.”
Gill currently has more than 56,000 followers on Twitter.
“The respondent’s tweets are accessible by the public. Moreover, members of the public who are not healthcare professionals are likely to attribute significant weight and authority to the respondent’s tweets, given her profession.”
“Non-medically trained members of the public would likely have difficulty determining the scientific and medical validity of the respondent’s tweets,” the panel stated.
As a result, Gill was cautioned by the panel due to a “lack of professionalism and failure to exercise caution in her posts on social media.”
A spokesperson for the CPSO said a caution “is one of the ways in which the College is empowered to respond to concerns about a physician’s conduct.”