Pennsylvania

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Lawmaker Proposes to Clarify Doctor “Gag Rule”

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Dr. Amy Pare, a Washington County plastic surgeon, says she worries the requirement for healthcare providers to sign non-disclosure agreements will harm patient care.

State Rep. Greg Vitali, (D-Delaware County), says he’ll be introducing a bill to amend Act 13 public health provisions. One of the most controversial provisions of the state’s new drilling law requires doctors to sign non-disclosure forms in order to get information on chemical exposures to treat patients. The language of the law is vague, and has created confusion and fear among doctors and other health professionals.

Dr. Amy Pare, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon from Washington County, has spoken out against the provision.

“As I understand it,” Pare told StateImpact, “it’s legally binding, so if 20 years from now I hiccup that someone was exposed to zippity doo dah, I’m legally liable for that.”

Pare says it could also have larger implications regarding public health data.

Vitali says his bill would allow health workers to share that “trade secret” information with other health professionals and regulatory agencies for healthcare purposes.

Vitali circulated a memo about the proposal to other House members on Wednesday, seeking co-sponsorship.

The bill would also require the Department of Health to “collect, analyze and disseminate health data” related to shale drilling operations. It also requires the Department to conduct an epidemiological study on the health impacts of shale drilling. And it would expand the state’s chemical disclosure requirements to include chemicals unintentionally added, as well as hazardous substances created by the interaction of fracking chemicals.

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