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March 27, 2012

Informed Consent for PA Fracking Healthcare

From Mother Jones:
Under a new law, doctors in Pennsylvania can access information about chemicals used in natural gas extraction—but they won't be able to share it with their patients.

Pennsylvania law states that companies must disclose the identity and amount of any chemicals used in fracking fluids to any health professional that requests that information in order to diagnosis or treat a patient that may have been exposed to a hazardous chemical. But the provision in the new bill requires those health professionals to sign a confidentiality agreement stating that they will not disclose that information to anyone else — not even the person they're trying to treat.

The provision was not in the initial versions of the law debated in the state Senate or House in February; it was added in during conference between the two chambers, said State Senator Daylin Leach(D).


The latest move in Pennsylvania has raised suspicions among the industry's critics once again. As Walter Tsou, president of the Philadelphia chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, put it, "What is the big secret here that they're unwilling to tell people, unless they know that if people found out what's really in these chemicals, they would be outraged?"


Gov. Tom Corbett's spokesman says this interpretation of the law is inaccurate and doctors will still be allowed to share information with their patients. Doctors could share the information with their patient, but would not be able to relay information about the specific formula used in fracking fluids more broadly.

However, the actual terms of the confidentiality agreements have not yet been drafted, and there seems to be pretty wide confusion in the state about what exactly the bill as signed into law would mean.

I could Tell You, But I'd Have to Kill You.
If I Don't Tell you, you Might Die.

It's interesting in a few ways. Nobody voted for it, but somehow it's the law. It's finished business, but nobody knows what it says. You're supposed to "own" your own treatment, but if you don't have a doctor you won't know anything. Before you go in for the operation, you'll sign a form indicated that you gave informed consent.

Eventually, living in Pennsylvania will qualify as a pre-existing condition, and we can skip the troublesome and time-consuming intermediate process.


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