Federal court dismisses doctor's lawsuit over Act 13 "gag rule"

  • Katie Colaneri

Capitolwire reports a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit from a Luzerne County doctor over an aspect of Pennsylvania’s drilling law (Act 13) that deals with health professionals’ access to information about the chemicals used in fracking.
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Federal District Judge Richard Caputo found Dr. Alfonso Rodriguez lacked standing to sue the Department of Environmental Protection and Public Utility Commission because he failed to meet certain criteria to show he suffered an “injury in fact” that “must be concrete in both a qualitative and temporal sense.”
Rodriguez, a Luzerne County physician, claimed the law violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights. A nephrologist who specializes in the treatment of renal diseases, hypertension, and advanced diabetes, Rodriguez said he was unable to obtain critical information about the quality of local water needed on a daily basis for his practice from gas drillers as a direct cause of the “medical gag rules” contained in Act 13, according to the court order.

Caputo’s ruling did not address the merits of the challenge.

The lawsuit filed by Rodriquez is separate from a challenge that is currently before Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court on the same aspect of the law.
Act 13 allows physicians to see a full list of the chemicals used in natural gas drilling, including those that are deemed a trade secret, in order to treat patients who may have been exposed to these substances. But some doctors say language in the law prohibits them from sharing that information with their patients and with other doctors.
In December, the state Supreme Court ruled that Dr. Mehernosh Khan, a primary care physician who worked for more than 30 years in the Pittsburgh suburbs, had standing to challenge the law. The case was sent back to the Commonwealth Court.
The Corbett administration, which is defending the law, has asserted that health professionals are adequately protected under the law and that it is unaware of any case to the contrary.

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