New Bill to Give Doctors Protection From Lawmakers

Aug 18, 2014

Patients trust that their doctors are acting in their best interests, with opinions formed by years of experience, training, and studying. But what if that medical opinion was actually handed down by a politician?

A new bill proposed by Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Stack (D- Philadelphia) attempts to address that issue by preventing government bodies from requiring medical personnel to make decisions that are not medically supported.

“We need to get politics and ideology out of medicine,” Stack said. “Right now, what we’ve seen is a lot of interfering with the healthcare decisions and choices and our legislation’s going to, hopefully, prevent that from happening in the future.”

The broadly written legislation could apply to many current political and medical issues, such as giving PA doctors added protection in cases that involve Marcellus Shale drilling.

Act 13 of 2012 allowed doctors in the Commonwealth to access restricted information about the chemicals used by hydro-fracking companies if it was necessary to diagnose or treat a patient, as long as the physicians signed a non-disclosure agreement. The chemical information is considered a trade secret by drilling companies, and doctors are not permitted to share the information beyond other medical personnel involved in treating the patient or the patient themselves. That portion of the law was challenged and upheld by the Commonwealth Court in July. However, some physicians were concerned that even if they followed the law, they could be sued by drilling companies if they obtained any chemical information. Dr. Amy Pare, a surgeon from Pittsburgh, says the ruling left many doctors uncertain about requesting the confidential information.

“What people are going to do is they’re going to avoid it,” Pare said. “And that goes against the grain of being a physician. Your job as a detective is to figure out what your exposures may or may not have been and be able to get them to the proper physicians.”

Stack’s legislation would give doctors like Pare a legal foundation to fall back on.

“I think probably most doctors just want to provide medical advice and do not want to get involved in the politics of these things,” Stack said.

The legislation could also be used in other controversial legal issues, such as to impede the passage of any law that would require physicians to show women ultrasounds before performing an abortion.

Senate Bill 1456, known as the “Patient Trust Act,” currently awaits a vote from the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.