Energy. Environment. Economy.

Doctor Sues Over Act 13 “Gag Rule”

A Luzerne County doctor has filed a federal lawsuit against a controversial aspect of Pennsylvania’s new drilling law. The law, now known as Act 13, requires gas drilling companies to provide health professionals with health and safety information on chemical exposures experienced by individual patients. But the law also says those companies may require healthcare workers to sign a nondisclosure agreement. How that aspect of the law gets interpreted is controversial. Governor Corbett’s office says it is meant to help doctors treat their patients properly. But some doctors say it would compromise their medical ethics, and jeopardize public health.

A panel of Commonwealth court judges recently ruled in a separate case that another doctor challenging the law did not have standing to bring such a suit. But a lawyer for Luzerne County nephrologist Alfonso Rodriquez says his client is in a different position.

“He’s on the frontline of treating people who have been exposed to fracking fluid,” said Paul Rossi, who filed the suit on behalf of Dr. Rodriquez. “He has actually treated someone who was exposed to fracking fluid.”

As a nephrologist, Rodriguez is a kidney specialist who treats patients on dialysis, as well as people who may be suffering from bladder cancer. He did treat a worker exposed to frack fluid during a blowout.

“It was a complex medical case,” says attorney Paul Rossi. “It is not hypothetical that [Rodriquez] will be impacted by this law.”

Doctors like Rodriquez worry that they won’t be able to share the information about the exposure with their patients, although the authors of the law say patients will be able to get the information. Health professionals also worry that the confidentiality agreements would restrict them from registering the exposure, and the subsequent health impacts, for public health research. Rossi says the law restricts his clients constitutional rights of free speech.


  • Power_to_the_People

    Thank you, Dr. Rodriquez, for bringing this lawsuit.  All doctors should stand behind him and end this secrecy.  We have the right to know what is causing ill health effects to people living near natural gas industry’s operations.  I see videos of people with rashes that doctors can’t explain.  Toxic air emissions from compressor stations are causing respiratory illnesses.  We all need to get involved, because our health is at stake.  Demand of your legislators a moratorium; we deserve health and environmental studies be completed before any more development is allowed!

  • Malika Malick

    I’m only 9 but I know this law is the most stupid law to exist. My mom is the leader of an anti hydrofracking group and these are the kind of things she fights for

  • Paul Roden

    But isn’t fracking safe? Aren’t fracking fluids “green”?  It the chemicals are so safe, why are they trying to gag doctors and why are they exempt from the Clear Water, Safe Drinking Water, Clean Air and Superfund Acts?  What are the gas drillers who use these fracking fluids trying to hide?  Any organic chemist will tell you that you can not separate and clean water from fracking  fluids.  The chemicals are toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic and can not be removed from an aquifer or any body of water once mixed together by filtering, chemical treatment or distillation.  The use of fracking should be banned and outlawed once and for all.  Our water is too precious to gamble for the quick fast buck for the gas and oil drillers. Besides, the gas extracted is not needed for our energy needs.  Read the studies by Jacobson and D iLucci in the November 2009 Scientific American and Energy Policy of 2011. Fracking is too dangerous, too expensive and not necessary for our energy needs.

  • Doktorjazz

    Can’t wait til I’m out of this crappy state.  Thank you, Corbett; You’ve sold out MILLIONS of people for some campaign donations.  I’d ask how you sleep at night, but I already know the answer:
    “Comfortablly, on a giant pile of money”

    • Denice Barnhart Grubb

      glad i left last yr in the south now way south where they dont drill in sand unforunately thry do drill oceans this is all so sad

  • Mtnman8881

    When we are all paying the same amount or more for water as we do for gasoline and people begin breaking into your homes to take your full water jugs…..will you ALL pay attention then? Or will you say to yourselves RIGHT NOW ” hey wait a minute this stuff ins’t affecting me at the moment, but has great potential to ruin my life and the lives of our children….I’ll get active NOW to help ensure the future for upcoming generations by simply paying attention, and getting ACTIVE on the issue I CAN make a difference “. Some say ” I’m only one person, what can I do? “  What if George Washington said that…….where would we be today ? YOU ARE ALL  going to be affected…..the drillers are doing things DAILY to take away your RIGHTS. Will you wait until they come across your land or your family’s land through eminent domain and tell you to shut up…that they have the right to be there? Who gave them that right?  ALL YOU SILENT PEOPLE !  Wake UP …get LOUD….get NOTICED… the drillers are being noticed….what about you?

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »