STATEMENT: Commonwealth Supreme Court hearing oral argument on the controversial Health Professional “Gag Rule” in Pennsylvania’s omnibus fracking law, Act 13 Submitted by Coalition Member on Tue, 03/08/2016 - 17:27[Philadelphia, PA] – This week, the Commonwealth Supreme Court will hear oral argument regarding the controversial health professional “gag rule” that is part of Pennsylvania’s omnibus fracking law, commonly referred to as Act 13. At the same time, they will also review other issues related to oil and gas operations in Pennsylvania. Passed in February 2012, Act 13 has been an area of great concern for Pennsylvania’s health professionals who treat patients in oil and gas communities. Therefore, Pennsylvania Health Professionals for a Livable Future is encouraged that the Commonwealth Supreme Court will review a section of Act 13 known as the health professional “gag rule.” We hope that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will overturn this provision, which significantly interferes with medical care, and compromises Pennsylvania’s ability to adequately protect public health. Act 13’s medical “gag rule” creates extensive confusion around the information doctors, nurses, and health experts may—or may not—share with their patients and other health professionals about the health impacts, risks, and exposures related to the trade secret chemicals that are used in the fracking process. In doing so, the “gag rule” stifles Pennsylvania’s medical professionals from doing their job, and leaves them vulnerable to potential litigation when they are attempting to provide the highest standard of evidence-based medical care. To ensure safe and complete medical care, information about a patient’s health status must be communicated accurately among all involved providers without restriction or fear of legal consequences. Further, health professionals must be allowed to discuss these cases so that providers can learn from previous patient episodes, and advance the care of their own patients. This kind of communication is especially important given that most health care providers have had very limited education in toxicology—the study of chemical effects on living organisms. Instead, the confidentiality agreements imposed by Act 13 force providers to constantly work "in the dark," as if each case is unique. Additionally, the gag order effectively prevents patients from providing an accurate medical history if future health problems related to exposures should arise for themselves, their family, or their offspring. We believe that the challenge to the health professional “gag rule” language in Act 13 stands on solid legal footing. Act 13’s health professional “gag rule” includes the unconstitutional singling out of the gas industry for special trade secret protection; and the violation of the single-subject rule by including regulation on medical care and public health in a law intended to regulate the natural gas industry. Pennsylvania Health Professionals for a Livable Future urges the Commonwealth Supreme Court to overturn the medical “gag rule” provision of Act 13 for the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians.