By KENT JACKSON
MSC: “It’s categorically not true that doctors do not have the ability to share information with their patients.”
A confidentiality clause in Pennsylvania’s new gas law raises a question of whether doctors can tell patients what chemicals they were exposed to by hydraulic fracturing.
Mother Jones magazine and other sources publicized the topic last week.
The law requires natural gas companies to pay impact fees, sets formulas for allocating the fees to municipalities affected by gas operations and establishes statewide regulations, which supersede local zoning laws, for drilling.
A provision in the law describes when gas companies must tell doctors what chemicals their secret fracking fluids contain. Doctors can request the information in writing if they need to know about the chemicals to diagnose and treat a patient who might have been exposed.
Also, doctors have to sign a non-disclosure agreement with the company.
In emergencies, doctors can request information about fracking fluids verbally and sign a confidentiality agreement later.
Provisions about confidentiality led to speculation that the threat of being sued by a gas company might stop doctors from disclosing what is in fracking fluid, even to patients.
A spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition of gas drillers said doctors don’t have to worry.
“It’s categorically not true that doctors do not have the ability to share information with their patients,” said Patrick Creighton, coalition spokesman.
The law does require that doctors use the information for patient care only, Creighton said.
The Pennsylvania Medical Society was unsure how the provision will affect doctors.
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