The online fundraising platform GoFundMe has removed a campaign aiming to raise money for a Maine doctor whose license was suspended last month after he allegedly signed COVID-19 exemption letters improperly and spread misinformation about the virus.
Dr. Paul Gosselin, who has a primary care practice in Waterville, launched a GoFundMe campaign last week to cover legal expenses after the Maine Board of Osteopathic Licensure temporarily suspended his medical license, pending possible further action at a hearing.
On the fundraising page, Gosselin wrote that he was under investigation for writing exemption letters and treating COVID-19 but that the fight was not just about his license but about “revealing the truth about the current restrictions being imposed on our children and the American people.” It had more than 50 donors but had raised only a fraction of the $100,000 goal he had set when it was removed Monday night.
A GoFundMe spokesperson said that Gosselin’s fundraiser had violated the company’s terms of service that “prohibit misinformation related to vaccines.”
The fundraising platform developed a policy on vaccine misinformation in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, amid criticism over fundraising by anti-vaccine activists targeting common childhood vaccines that prevent diseases such as measles and chickenpox.
But it has taken on new significance in the past year, as public health advocates have pushed internet companies to combat misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine, which has been extensively tested and monitored for safety both in the U.S. and across the world and remains highly effective at preventing illness.
In COVID-19 vaccine guidelines released in October, GoFundMe said that it was working to proactively address organizations and individuals “affiliated with the spreading of misinformation” about vaccines, as well as misleading claims about possible COVID-19 cures. The site previously removed a fundraiser for a Houston nurse raising legal funds to challenge a vaccine mandate at the hospital where she had worked, Texas Monthly reported.
Although the state licensing board has not publicly detailed the misinformation Gosselin was accused of spreading, the website for his Waterville-based medical practice, Patriots Health, includes links to a blog post from the conservative American Academy of Physicians and Surgeons that questions federal regulators’ opposition to the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. Several clinical trials found no positive effect to use of the anti-malaria drug, with some finding it could harm patients.
Gosselin’s website also includes a link to the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, a group that offers paid online consultations for COVID-19 patients and recommends a range of off-label treatments including the antifungal drug ivermectin.
A fundraiser for Gosselin was still up on the Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo, although it had raised only $5 as of Wednesday morning. Calls to his Waterville medical practice were not returned this week. His lawyer, Ron Jenkins of Portland, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he and Gosselin had nothing to say for now.