A Word of Caution Regarding Shared Medical Information

The phrase “doctor/patient confidentiality” is often used to refer to the various legal protections that guard the privacy of communications between people and their physicians.  HIPAA strictly regulates what a doctor can disclose and to whom.  Additionally, patient-physician privilege laws prevent a doctor from disclosing information learned about a patient in the course of medical treatment, unless certain circumstances apply.

One such exception to the general rule of privacy involves mandatory reporting of conditions that adversely affect one’s ability to drive. Doctors, and people authorized to diagnose and treat disorders and disabilities (therapists, psychologists, etc) MUST report to PennDOT any patient fifteen (15) years of age or older who has been diagnosed as having a condition that could impair his/her ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Mandatory PennDOT reporting of medical conditions such as:

  • Seizure disorde
  • Unstable diabetes
  • Periodic episodes of loss of consciousness
  • Certain cardiovascular and cerebral vascular conditions

Mandatory PennDOT reporting of other additional conditions such as:

  • Alcohol use
  • Drug use
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Excessive aggressiveness
  • Inattentiveness to the task of driving

Again, these are conditions that MUST be reported to PennDOT, and which can result in a suspension or revocation of a person’s driving privileges.  Indeed, health care professionals who fail to report patients suffering from these and other ailments can face civil liability if that patient causes an accident.

Some worry that the medical mandatory reporting requirements will prevent those in need of help from disclosing their condition to a doctor or physician.  Though it is clear that some people clearly suffer from medical problems which prevent them from safely driving a car, it is equally clear that many of the maladies subject to mandatory reporting are subjective determinations which will vary from doctor to doctor.  While one doctor may consider a patient’s displays of aggression serious enough to report them to PennDOT, it would not be unreasonable for another doctor to examine the same patient and find them to be no danger to others.  Likewise, if you tell your doctor that you may be having a problem with drinking too much, or being forgetful, does the doctor feel an obligation to report you to PennDot?  This is just one area that demonstrates the inherent difficulty in balancing safety and privacy.

If you are concerned about disclosing information to your doctor, would like more information about mandatory PennDOT reporting conditions, or have had your license suspended due to a medical condition, contact us, or visit the website at www.floodfirm.com.

Posted on September 12, 2014, in Alcohol, Criminal Law, Distracted Driving, Drugs, DUI, Family Law, Minor and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on A Word of Caution Regarding Shared Medical Information.

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