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New England Journal of Medicine Cites Fracking Industry for Non-disclosure

A report issued this month in The New England Journal of Medicine cites the controversial gas extraction process known as ‘fracking’ as one of four prime examples of an increasing trend whereby legislators, in cooperation with industry, “inappropriately infringe on clinical practice and patient-physician relationships.”

The October 18 article, titled “Legislative Interference with the Patient-Physician Relationship,” states the following:

“Four states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, and Texas) have passed legislation relating to disclosure of information about exposure to chemicals used in the process of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).10 Fracking involves injecting into the ground toxic chemicals such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene to extract oil and natural gas.  Low levels of exposure to those chemicals can trigger headaches, dizziness, and drowsiness; higher levels of exposure can cause cancer. In Pennsylvania, physicians can obtain information about chemicals used in the fracking process that may be relevant to a patient’s care, but only after requesting the information in writing and executing a nonstandardized confidentiality and nondisclosure agreement drafted by the drilling companies.”

The new report goes on to say :”Physicians must have the ability and freedom to speak to their patients freely and confidentially, to provide patients with factual information relevant to their health, to fully answer their patients’ questions, and to advise them on the course of best care without the fear of penalty.”

In addition to fracking, firearms was cited as another example of ‘gagging’ doctors, specifically the 2011 Florida Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, which “substantially impaired physicians’ ability to deliver gun-safety messages to patients.”

The authors of the article — five medical doctors who occupy the executive staff leadership of the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, and the American College of Surgeons, conclude:

We find this trend alarming and believe that legislators should abide by principles that put patients’ best interests first.”

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