A new law requiring doctors to sign confidentiality agreements concerning patients’ exposure to chemicals used in fracking has made physicians wary, Professor Barry Furrow said in an Aug. 27 article in American Medical News, published by the American Medical Association.
Doctors have filed a lawsuit opposing a Pennsylvania law that requires natural gas drillers to identify chemicals to which their patients may have been exposed but only if physicians sign agreements pledging to use the information solely for treatment purposes. Under the law, information about the chemicals is protected as a trade secret which can only be shared with doctors who use the data exclusively to treat patients who have been exposed.
The suit claims the law violates the doctors’ First Amendment rights and limits their ability to treat patients effectively.
Although the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued a letter in April stating that doctors may share information with peers who are treating the same patient or public health agencies, the assurances only go so far, Furrow said.
“Physicians get very nervous about these things, because they’re worried about being sued,” Furrow said. “It doesn’t give me any comfort unless you put it in” the statute.