Make Known Unknown (Blog 9)

What the Frack!

Doctor-patient confidentiality is a legal concept that everyday people rely on in order to insure patients receive the best possible care. The law was first introduced to encourage patients to be as honest as possible with their physician without fear of judgment or that the information will be made readily available. In turn it is assumed that the doctor will actively help you to the best of their ability. This belief however may not necessarily still hold true.  

With more and more of the United States turning to hyrdofracturing as a means to extract oil and gas public debate has began to intensify. In the highly competitive world of oil and gas extraction companies are unwilling to reveal too much information as to the chemical formulas that they are using. With health concerns on the rise around hydrofracturing areas doctors have claimed they need to know what’s in those formulas in order for them to best complete their jobs.

Doctors in a number of states, such as Pennsylvania, are now able to access a list of chemicals that are used, with the exception of “trade secrets”. In order for a doctor to learn of the chemicals in the trade secrets they are required to sign a confidentiality agreement to not share that information, with anybody. This is putting health care providers in a bind with many concerned about this “gag rule” having future legal consequences.

Regardless of the standpoint that you take in terms of the risks and rewards of the extraction process, Pennsylvania’s laws on the “gag rule” must be unethical. While the law does not always reflect what is ethically right, to deny a person seeking medical attention based on corporation’s trade secrets has to be wrong. Even if doctors could inform patients that their systems were a result of hyrocfracturing doesn’t the community as a whole have the right to know? If this law were not in place there could be an influx of information as to the potential negative effects that could take place.

I write this blog not to argue whether or not fracking should or should not be carried out but to argue that there needs to be greater transparency between the medical community, patients, and the oil and gas companies. As Howard Frumkin, the dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Washington points out the government had good intentions to protect oil companies but didn’t get the balance quite right.

Is time they fracking changed the law!




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