Ron Kennedy, M.D. Facing Disciplinary Action


Stephen Barrett, M.D.
April 18, 2020

The Medical Board of California appears likely to discipline Ron Kennedy, M.D. for writing unjustified vaccination exemptions for three children. In one case, as described in the Accusation below, he relied upon a family history of autoimmune, respiratory and what he termed “neuropsychiatric disorders.” In the other two cases, his exemptions were based upon a family history of several illnesses occurring at variable times after a variety of vaccines. None of these is a medically valid reason for avoiding vaccination. 

As part of its investigation, the Medical Board subpoenaed Kennedy’s records for the children who were the subjects of the complaint. It also subpoenaed the records of all of the children in the Mendocino school district for whom Kennedy had written exemptions. Kennedy filed suits to block the subpoenas. In the first case, the Superior Court said he must comply, and the ruling was upheld by the California Court of Appeals. In the other case, the Superior Court refused to quash the subpoenas, but the appeal is still pending.

Kennedy operates the Anti-Aging Medical Clinic in Santa Rosa, California. He also operates a large Web site called The Doctors’ Medical Library, which contains hundreds of articles that promote offbeat methods and ideas. Its article on vaccinations, which has been online for at least 20 years, portrays vaccines as dangerous and ineffective.

Kenneth Stoller, M.D. and Tara Zandvliet, M.D. are facing similar charges.


XAVIER BECERRA
Attorney General of California
JANE ZACK SIMON
Supervising Deputy Attorney General
LAWRENCE MERCER
Deputy Attorney General
State Bar No. 111898.
455 Golden Gate Avenue; Suite 11000
San Francisco, CA. 94102-7004
Telephone: (415) 510-3488
Facsimile: (415) 703-5480
Attorneys for Complainant

BEFORE THE
MEDICAL BOARD OF CALIFORNIA
DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS
STATE OF CALIFORNIA

In the Matter of the Accusation Against:

Ron Kennedy, M.D.
2448 Guerneville Road, Suite 800
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Respondent


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Case No. 800-2017-030287

ACCUSATION

PARTIES

1. Christine J. Lally (Complainant) brings this Accusation solely in her official capacity as the Interim Executive Director of the Medical Board of California, Department of Consumer Affairs (Board),

2. On or about October 24, 1975, the Medical Board issued Physician’s and Surgeon’s Certificate Number C 36809 to Ron Kennedy, M.D. (Respondent} The Physician’s and Surgeon’s Certificate was in full force and effect at all times relevant to the charges brought herein and will expire on July 31, 2021, unless renewed,

JURISDICTION

3. This Accusation is brought before the Board, under the authority of the following laws. Alt section references are to the Business and Professions Code (Code) unless otherwise indicated.

4. Section 2227 of the Code provides that a licensee who. is found guilty under the Medical Practice Act may have his or her license revoked, suspended for a period not to exceed one year, placed on probation and required to pay the costs of probation monitoring, or such other action taken in relation to discipline as the Board deems proper.

5. Section 2234 of the Code states, in pertinent part:

The Board shall take action against any licensee who. is charged with unprofessional conduct. In addition to other provisions of this article, unprofessional conduct includes, but is not limited to, the following:

(a) Violating or attempting to violate, directly or indirectly, assisting in or abetting the. violation of, or conspiring to violate any provision of this chapter.

(b) Gross negligence.

(c) Repeated negligent acts. To be repeated, there must be two or more negligent acts or omissions. An initial negligent act or omission followed by a separate and distinct departure from the applicable standard of care shall constitute repeated negligent acts.

(1) An initial negligent diagnosis followed by an act or omission medically appropriate for that negligent diagnosis of the patient shall constitute a single negligent act.

(2) When the. standard of care requires a change in the diagnosis, act, or omission that constitutes the negligent act described in paragraph (1), including, but not limited to, a reevaluation of the diagnosis or a change in treatment, and the licensee’s conduct departs from the applicable standard of care, each departure constitutes a separate and distinct breach of the standard of care.

(d) Incompetence.

6. Section 2266 of the. Code states:

The failure of a physician and surgeon to maintain adequate and accurate records relating to the provision of services to their patients constitutes unprofessional conduct.

OTHER STATUTES

7. Health and Safety Code section 120325 provides:

In enacting this chapter, but excluding Section 120380, and in enacting Sections 120400, 120405, 120410, and 120415, it is the intent of the Legislature to provide:

(a) A means for the eventual achievement of total immunization of appropriate age groups against the following childhood diseases:

    1. Diphtheria.
    2. Hepatitis B.
    3. Haemophilus influenza type b.
    4. Measles.
    5. Mumps.
    6. Pertussis (whooping cough).
    7. Poliomyelitis,
    8. Rubella.
    9. Tetanus.
    10. Varicella (chickenpox).
    11. Any other disease deemed appropriate by the department, taking into consideration the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the. United States Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

(b) That the persons required to be immunized be allowed to obtain immunizations from whatever medical source they so desire, subject only to the condition that the immunization be performed in accordance with the regulations of the department and that a record of the immunization is made in accordance with the regulations.

(c) Exemptions from immunization for medical reasons.

(d) For the keeping of adequate records of immunization so that health: departments, schools, and other institutions, parents or guardians, and-the persons immunized will be able to ascertain that a child is fully or only partially immunized, and so that appropriate public agencies will be able to ascertain the immunization needs of groups of children in schools or other institutions.

(e) Incentives to public health authorities to design innovative-and creative programs that will promote and achieve Juli and timely immunization of children.

8. At all relevant times, former Health and Safety Code section 120370 provided, in pertinent part:

(a) If the parent or guardian files with the governing authority a written statement by a, licensed physician to the effect that the physical condition of the child is such, or medical circumstances relating to the child are such, that immunization is not considered safe, indicating the specific nature arid probable duration of the medical condition or circumstances; including, but not limited to, family medical history, for which the physician does not recommend immunization, that child shall be exempt from the requirements of Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 120325, but excluding Section 120380) and Sections 120400, 120405, 120410, and 120415 to the extent indicated by the physician’s statement.

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

9. At all relevant times, Respondent Ron Kennedy, M:D., was a physician and surgeon providing medical care at his Anti-Aging Medical Clinic. in Santa.Rosa, California. Respondent is not a pediatrician and at all relevant times he was not the primary care physician for the three children discussed herein.

10. In 2015, the California Legislature amended Health and Safety Code section 120325 to eliminate personal beliefs as a basis for exemption from required immunizations for school-aged children. Consequently, school-aged children not subject to any other exception were required to have immunizations for 10 vaccine-preventable childhood illnesses as a condition of public school attendance. After the statutory amendment became effective, the Medical Board began receiving complaints from schools, primary care providers and parents that physicians were issuing medical exemptions from required vaccinations that did not appear to have a bona fide medical basis.

11. Beginning in 2016, Respondent began issuing medical exemptions from required vaccinations to school-aged children. In 2017, the Immunization Coordinator at the Sonoma County Department of Public Health Services reported receipt of multiple complaints from schools and preschools expressing concerns about permanent medical exemptions issued by Respondent.

12. On August 17, 2017, the Board received a complaint from a school nurse that Patient 11 presented a Vaccine exemption from Respondent that did not appear to be valid, The complaint stated that Patient 1 was a female Student entering the 7th Grade, who previously had a personal belief exemption and, after the personal belief exemption was eliminated, presented a permanent medical exemption from all required vaccinations issued by Respondent. The complaint stated that the child’s school records did not contain any medical information that would support a vaccine exemption.

1Patient names are redacted to protect privacy interests.

13. On June 24, 2019, pursuant to a court order, the Board obtained Respondent’s records for Patient 1. Respondent’s records stated that Patient 1 “has always enjoyed good health.” He also documented that the child had previously been exempted from vaccines .based on personal beliefs. and that her parents, who opposed vaccinations, were consulting Respondent for the purpose of obtaining a medical exemption. Patient 1’s personal history was negative for any condition that would contraindicate any vaccine: Respondent’s review of systems was normal. Respondent’s physical examination was within normal limits, with only mild myopia noted.

14. On the date of his evaluation, July 17, 2017, Respondent gave Patient 1 a “Medical Vaccine Exemption” that was permanent and applied to all vaccines, The basis for the vaccine exemption, as documented on the form and in Respondent’s records, was a, family history of obsessive compulsive disorder in mother, ADD in father, ADHD in brother, and depression and anorexia nervosa in sister; as well as a variety of other disorders in extended family. The exemption form, which was otherwise boilerplate, contained Respondent’s handwritten annotation that the reason for the exemption was “autoimmune, respiratory, neuropsych illness in family.”

15. On or about November 29, 2017, the Medical Board received a complaint from the father of Patients 2 and Patient 3; male children aged 3 years and 1 year of age. The children’s parent complained that Respondent had provided the children with vaccine exemptions without his consent and without a bona fide medical reason. Pursuant to a court order, the Board obtained the. children’s pediatric records from their primary care. provider at Kaiser Permanente. The pediatric records were significant for no documented allergies or medical problems that might be a precaution or contraindication to a specific vaccine. the children’s father reported that prior to Respondent’s issuance of vaccine exemptions the children had received some immunizations and did not have any adverse reactions.

16. On June 24,2019, pursuant to court order, the Board obtained Respondent’s records for Patients 2 and 3. Respondent’s records for Patient 2 contain a history from the mother that Patient 2 was “sick” after previous vaccinations; however, the mother also apparently provided Patient 2’s immunization record that indicated that the child had received vaccinations and had no significant medical problems. Respondent reported the physical examination of the child as normal. Nonetheless, he issued a vaccine exemption on September 26, 2017. According to his medical records, the exemption issued based upon a maternal family history of a variety of events occurring after immunizations to her and to various relatives. The reasons stated for the exemption are indicated by checked boxes on the form for “neuropsychiatric illness, allergic illness, vaccine reaction or-injury.” The exemption is permanent and global, applying to all vaccines. Respondent’s records for Patient 3 are similar in content and refer to Patient 3 as a “normal one year old child.” Respondent also issued a permanent exemption from all vaccines. or Patient 3.

17. On January 8, 2018, after the children’s father demanded that he do so, Respondent rescinded his vaccine exemptions for Patients 2 and 3.

18. The Board obtained medical records for Patients 2 and 3 relating to their subsequent pediatric care: Both children ultimately received their scheduled vaccinations without event.

FIRST CAUSE FOR DISCiPLINE
(Gross Negligence/Repeated Negligent Acts/Incompetence)

(Inappropriate Rationale-for Medical Exemption)

19. Respondent Ron Kennedy, MD. is subject to disciplinary action under sections 2234 and/or 2234(6) and/or 2234(c) and/or 2234(d) in that Respondent engaged in unprofessional Conduct, was grossly negligent and/or committed repeated acts of negligence and/or was incompetent in his care and treatment of Patients 1, 2 and 3. The circumstances are as follows:

20. Respondent based his vaccine exemptions on factors not considered contraindications or precautions by the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the American Academy of Pediatrics. In the case of Patient 1, Respondent relied upon a family history of autoimmune, respiratory and what respondent termed neuropsychiatric disorders. In the case of Patients 2 and 3, Respondent based his exemptions upon a family history of ‘several illnesses occurring at variable times after a variety of vaccines, albeit such the history does not indicate that vaccines caused the illnesses. The standard of care for a. primary care provider; consultant and specialist-is to follow national standards for pediatric vaccination practices and immunization recommendations from the CDC, issued through the Advisory Committee on. Immunization Practices, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, as summarized in The Red Book. Neither a family history of disorders, such as that documented by Respondent for Patient I, nor a family history of various illnesses at various times after a variety of vaccines, such as that documented by Respondent for Patients 2 and 3, constitute contraindications or precautions recognized by the CDC or AAP; hence Respondent’s exemptions fall below the standard of care,

SECOND CAUSE FOR DiSCIPLINE
(Gross Negligence/Repeated Negligent Acts/Incompetence)
(Global Vaccine Exemptions)

21. Respondent Ron Kennedy, M:D. is subject to disciplinary action under sections 2234 and/or 2234(b) and/or 2234(c) and/or 2234(d) in that Respondent engaged in unprofessional conduct, was grossly negligent and/or committed repeated acts of negligence and/or was incompetent in his care and treatment of Patients 1, 2 and 3. The circumstances are as follows:

22. Respondent issued exemptions to all vaccines. There is no ingredient common to all vaccines. There are some specific contraindications apply to individual vaccines: and some precautions, such as an acute illness, might require temporary deferral of immunization until the. illness has resolved. Patients 1, 2 and 3, as documented in Respondent’s records, did not have any contraindication or precaution, as defined by the CDC and AAP that would exempt them from any recommended vaccine. Providing an exemption to all vaccines falls below the standard of care.

THIRD CAUSE FOR DISCIPLINE
(Gross Negligence/Repeated Negligent Acts/Incompetence)

(Permanent Vaccine Exemptions)

23. Respondent Ron Kennedy, M.D. is subject to disciplinary action under sections 2234 and/or 2234(b) and/or 2234(c) and/or 2234(d) in that Respondent engaged in unprofessional conduct, was grossly negligent and/or committed repeated acts of negligence and/or was incompetent in his care and treatment of Patients 1, 2 and 3. The circumstances are as follows:

24. Respondent issued exemptions that were permanent in duration. Permanent exemptions to specific vaccines are appropriate when contraindications are present and not expected to be temporary, for example a severe allergic reaction, e.g. anaphylaxis, after a previous dose or to a vaccine component, or severe immunosuppression and live-vaccines. As stated above, a temporary condition, such as an acute illness, might be a precaution until the illness resolved. Patients. I, 2 and 3, as documented in Respondent’s records, did not have any events or conditions recognized by the CDC or AAP as n.medical basis for a permanent exemption from immunizations. Providing a permanent exemption falls below the standard of care.

FOURTH CAUSE FOR DISCIPLINE
(Inadequate and Inaccurate Records)

25. Respondent Ron Kennedy, M.D. is subject to disciplinary action under section 2266 in that he failed to maintain adequate and accurate records, As. set forth above, Respondent’s records fail to document a: medical indication for the vaccine exemptions that he issued, Histories inadequately documented and objective findings do not support the plan for vaccine exemptions. Respondent failed to obtain prior medical records from the children’s treating pediatricians. His exemptions are boilerplate, list multiple conditions without specification and exempt the children even from vaccines no longer routinely used.

PRAYER

WHEREFORE, Complainant requests that a hearing be held on the matters herein alleged, and that following the hearing, the Medical Board of California issue a decision:

  1. Revoking or suspending Physician’s and Surgeon’s Certificate Number C 36809, issued to Ron Kennedy, M.D.;
  2. Revoking, suspending or denying approval of Ron Kennedy, M.D.’s authority to supervise physician assistants and advanced practice nurses;
  3. Ordering Ron Kennedy, M.D., if placed on probation, to pay the Board. the costs of probation monitoring; and
  4. Taking such other and further action as deemed necessary and proper;

DATED: JAN 29 2020

_________________________
CHRISTINE J. LALLY
Interim Executive Director
Medical Board of California
Department of Consumer Affairs
State of California
Complainant