Consider prior regimes for which the pretext of “public safety” during an emergency paved the way for excessive state-sanctioned powers and to, in some cases, totalitarianism. Going back centuries, whenever the Roman Republic faced an acute existential threat, such as an invading army, the Senate would appoint a dictator with immense and far-reaching authority. Over a period of three-hundred years, dictators were appointed on ninety-five occasions. Upon termination of the crisis, each was required to quickly relinquish their authority. And they did so every time––except once, and that marked the beginning of imperial overstretch, and, ultimately, the collapse of the Roman Republic.

We should also recall that it was the unabashedly named Committee of Public Safety that carried out the French Revolution’s infamous Reign of Terror. Now I recognize that almost anyone who draws an analogy to the Third Reich is met with the charge of hyperbole. But one would be remiss not to mention Nazi Germany when specifically discussing historical cases of state-sanctioned authoritarian power being used in the name of “public safety.” It remains a sobering, instructive, and undeniable fact that Nazi Germany was governed for virtually the entirety of its existence under Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which allowed for the suspension of German law in times of an “emergency.”

If these historical examples seem alarmist, consider that Australia rounded up citizens exposed to covid, including asymptomatic people, and shipped them to detention facilities against their will. Videos of Australian detention centers made their way onto social media before tech censors dutifully scrubbed them from the internet. Canada likewise built detention facilities for infected and exposed persons.

Authoritarian measures during the pandemic went beyond detention of suspected or actual cases. The Medical Indemnity Protection Society (MIPS) is the singular authority for providing medical malpractice insurance in Australia. MIPS published “12 Commandments” to help physicians avoid disciplinary “notifications” by the country’s governing agency. MIPS Commandment #9 ominously warns Australian doctors that mentioning findings of a published scientific study not consistent with “public health messaging” could potentially result in them losing their ability to practice medicine.

Likewise, in the United States, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), an authority on medical licensure and physician discipline, passed a policy in May 2022 on disciplining physicians for “misinformation” and “disinformation” that will guide all state medical boards and, in turn, the nation’s physicians they license. It might even become state law. Stunningly, the very first example of non-compliance cited involves the FSMB’s October 6, 2020 assertion about the efficacy of cloth masks—an assertion later shown to be false. If the FSMB genuinely wanted to combat falsehoods, it would start by addressing the ones it promulgated during the pandemic. It could then move on to those disseminated by our public health authorities, who routinely flip-flopped on “The Science.”

My home state, California, took up the FSMB’s suggestion to codify its recommendations. I recently traveled to Sacramento to testify against this legislation in the State Senate. The law empowers the state medical board to discipline physicians for spreading “misinformation,” defined as statements that contradict the current scientific consensus (an ill-defined legal standard). Undermining its own central claims, the text of Assembly Bill 2098 made multiple statements about covid that were already outdated by the time I arrived in the capital, because—despite what our bureaucratic overlords posit—science constantly evolves. Alas, the controversial bill was ultimately voted into law last month, passing strictly along party lines.

Fortunately, biomedical authoritarianism is meeting additional resistance. Both physicians and patients in California oppose AB 2098 because they recognize that a doctor with a gag order is not a doctor that can be trusted. They also understand that censorship is anathema to scientific progress. Along with other physicians in California, I will soon file a lawsuit in federal court challenging AB 2098 on First Amendment free-speech grounds. I am confident that this law—which undermines the medical-informed consent process, and, ultimately, harms patients—will not withstand judicial scrutiny. The burgeoning grassroots medical-freedom movement constitutes the necessary corrective to what has with frightening rapidity become the new abnormal.

Dr. Aaron Kheriaty is a practicing psychiatric physician, Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and Senior Fellow at the Zephyr Institute. Follow @akheriaty