Remember Jerry Vlasak? He’s a trauma surgeon and animal rights activist who has advocated for the deaths of other doctors who conduct medical research that uses animals. Two years ago we filed a petition with the Medical Board of California (where Vlasak is licensed as an M.D.), asking the board to investigate the validity of his medical license. After all, that whole “Do No Harm” edict doesn’t square with calling for “political assassinations” of colleagues who don’t agree with you.
Unfortunately, the Medical Board didn’t see things our way. Here’s the meat of how the body replied to us this week (you can view the full letter here):
It is the conclusion of our legal counsel that we lack sufficient evidence to establish a violation of the Medical Practice Act. The First Amendment’s protection of speech permits commentary that can be perceived as offensive. In the case of a physician, comments that may be perceived as objectionable must be linked to the physician’s ability to practice medicine with safety to the public in order to be actionable.
For a little background, here’s the “free speech” that Vlasak said to the Animal Rights 2003 convention about doctors who use animals in research (at the time he was a spokesman for the so-called “Physicians Committee” for Responsible Medicine):
“I don’t think you’d have to kill — assassinate — too many … I think for 5 lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives.”
On a 2004 episode of Penn & Teller’s show “Bullsh*t,” Vlasak stated his belief that “I think that violence and nonviolence are not moral principles, they’re tactics.” And in 2005 Vlasak again endorsed the murder of medical scientists, this time in front of the U.S. Senate.
This guy takes professional disagreement to a new level. And he apparently believes it’s better to see people in Somalia starve than see mosquitoes killed.
Falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater isn’t protected speech. Neither is advocating imminent violence or making direct threats. We wonder if recommending the mass murder of physicians is really protected. In some ways, it’s similar to preaching violence. If a medical researcher who uses animals is ever blown up by a bomb, can Vlasak be held responsible?