Dr. Sherri Tenpenny has been causing quite a stir ever since she appeared before the Ohio House Health Committee earlier this year, when she claimed the COVID-19 vaccines magnetize recipients and “interface” with 5G towers.
An online fundraiser for a business owned by Tenpenny stated, “Now, they are forcing hundreds of millions of freedom-loving people into choosing between being injected with a deadly, experimental product and retaining employment. And, for those who will not comply, they are being tortured by having a Q-tip forcibly shoved up their nose twice a week to “test” for exposure to a virus that, by some claims, doesn’t even exist.”
She’s also emerged as one of the leading disseminators of misinformation on social media, according to research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate. She’s referred to the vaccine as a “method of mass destruction” and charges $623 for a “boot camp” that trains people to help others refrain from getting vaccinated.
So, why did the State Medical Board of Ohio just renew her medical license for another two years?
No Disciplinary Action
Records show Tenpenny’s license was first issued in 1984. It was set to expire on Oct 1, but the board, which credentials physicians, recently renewed her license for another two years.
State law says the board can discipline a physician for “making a false, fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading statement” in relation to the practice of medicine if at least six members out of 12 vote in favor of such a motion.
This “includes representations or implications that in reasonable probability will cause an ordinarily prudent person to misunderstand or be deceived.”
Jerica Stewart, a spokesperson for the board, confirmed that Tenpenny’s license was renewed. The board monitors over 92,000 physicians, so their licenses are often renewed automatically. Certain responses on the application can trigger an investigation. The board can also respond to a complaint and start its own investigation.
“A recent renewal does not prevent the board from taking future disciplinary action,” she said.
Before the board renewed Tenpenny’s license last week, the Ohio Capital Journal contacted the state medical board and several local physicians groups and asked them if they thought Tenpenny’s license should be renewed.
The physicians groups declined to comment on whether Tenpenny should remain in the profession.
Todd Baker, executive director of the Ohio State Medical Association, also declined to comment, but offered his support for COVID-19 vaccination requirements for healthcare workers.
“The investigative process to assess complaints regarding a licensee is also defined in law and rule and the Board is required to follow that process,” he said. “If other physicians or members of the public contact the OSMA with a complaint about a physician for any particular reason, we refer those inquiries to the medical board.”
Matt Harney, executive director of the Ohio Osteopathic Association, added that the board has the “authority to investigate possible fraud, misrepresentation, or deception”, but declined to say whether he believed Tenpenny had committed such acts.
“Misinformation is a serious threat to personal and public health, and it must be rejected,” he said. “This includes the false and completely unfounded claims made by Dr. Sherri Tenpenny during the Ohio House of Representatives Health Committee on June 8. The OOA disavows her testimony. She is not affiliated with the OOA, has never been a member, and does not represent the views of the OOA.”
Stewart added that all complaints and investigations are confidential unless the board decides to discipline the provider, which would then cause records to be released to the public.
“The Medical Board takes its responsibility of protecting the health and safety of the public very seriously,” she said.
This isn’t the first time a provider with a history of making false or misleading claims has been able to renew their medical license.
NPR recently reviewed the medical licenses for 16 doctors who have a proven track record of making false claims about COVID-19. They found that 15 of these providers still have active licenses and remain in good standing with their respective medical boards.
A Lack of Enforcement
Misinformation is becoming more common in the age of the pandemic. Some organizations are encouraging medical boards to take action against those who spread misinformation.
Last month, the American Board of Emergency Medicine issued a statement that said it could revoke certification for any of its specialists for spreading “inaccurate information.”
The Federation of State Medical Boards issued a similar statement in July that said, “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.”
So, why haven’t we seen more disciplinary action against providers who misinform?
Experts say medical boards are often more focused on what happens in the office than what happens online. They were built to hold providers accountable for malpractice, not monitor the internet for misinformation.
Dr. Humayun Chaudhry, president of the Federation of State Medical Boards, said, “People assume that licensing boards are on the lookout, they’re on the internet. They actually don’t have the resources — neither the money nor the manpower — to monitor what happens on the internet or social media.”
These doctors may hold onto their medical licenses for years to come.