Questions for the Candidate: Do you support the sanctity of the patient/physician relationship? Do you believe politicians should be able to dictate the information a physician must provide to a patient?
Physicians should never have to choose between following the law and adhering to sound medical training and ethics in caring for our patients. Learn more at this opinion piece published in the New England Journal of Medicine in October 2012 and ACOG’s 2013 Executive Board Statement.
Did you know: Victims of domestic violence are 8 times more likely to be killed if their partner has access to a gun, but in Florida it is illegal for physicians to ask their patients about guns in the home.
Political Interference - State
In 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld a Florida law restricting physicians’ speech to only what is considered “medically relevant” within the physician/patient relationship. In Wollschlaeger v. Governor of Florida, the Court ruled that physicians can only talk to their patients about gun safety if they ‘in good faith’ believe it to be relevant to medical care or safety, but not as a part of routine screening or general counseling. One study found that 64 percent of individuals who received verbal firearm storage safety counseling from their doctors improved their gun storage practices. ACOG and leading medical societies, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Physicians, attest that gun violence can be reduced by providing patients and parents with information about gun safety. To read more about this issue, click here and go to ‘Gun Safety’ on page 13.
State laws vary drastically. Some protect physicians’ access to proprietary information in emergency situations; others make it illegal for a physician to report medically relevant information to the appropriate public agency. Referencing an incident where a nurse was exposed to unknown chemicals used in fracking, The Natural Resources Defense Council wrote:
“In 2008, an emergency room nurse named Cathy Behr became critically ill and suffered multiple organ failure after being exposed to fracking chemicals, according to an article in the Denver Post. Behr had helped treat an injured oilfield worker when he arrived in the emergency room after an accident at a well site left him covered in fracking fluid. Behr reported that she breathed in chemical fumes as she helped the worker remove his boots and shower. Later, her vision blurred, her skin turned yellow, she began vomiting and her lungs filled with fluid. For days, the fracking company refused to tell her doctors what chemicals were in the fluid, claiming the information was a confidential ‘trade secret,’ even though her life was in jeopardy. Fortunately, Behr eventually recovered – even though her doctors never got the information they sought.”
To read more and check out the laws in your state, click here and go to ‘Toxic Exposures’.
Reproductive Health Care
Many states have passed laws limiting women’s access to reproductive health care. The most publicized of late has been Texas’ House Bill 2, which came before the US Supreme Court in 2016. The Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt found that two provisions in the Texas law – requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and requiring abortion clinics in the state to have facilities comparable to an ambulatory surgical center – place an undue burden on women seeking an abortion, and therefore violate the Constitution.
There have been 231 restrictions on abortion enacted from 2010 to 2014. Click the links below to learn more.
· Bans on abortions performed after 20 weeks due to claims of fetal pain
· Limitations on the performance of Dilation and Evacuation
· Designation of ‘Personhood’ from conception
· Restricting abortion based on the reasons for the abortion
· Requiring medically unnecessary ultrasounds
· Requiring providers to give medically inaccurate information to women seeking abortions
· Limiting the use of donated fetal tissue in research
· Limiting the use of abortion medications to only FDA approved protocols
To arm yourself with more facts and figures regarding abortion, read the CDC latest numbers at Abortion Surveillance 2012. To find out more information on the status of abortion laws in your state, click here.
ACOG works to oppose restrictions, improve access, and maintain abortion and reproductive care as an integral component of women’s health care. To find out more about ACOG’s position on these issues, click here.
Patient Trust Act
The Patient Trust Act, introduced into the Pennsylvania legislature in 2015 is an example of medical societies fighting back against political interference. Spearheaded by the National Partnership for Women and Families and backed by ACOG, the text of the bill “allows providers to communicate freely with patients and exercise his or her medical judgment in order to provide the most beneficial medical treatment to the individual patient”. It “does not alter existing accountability mechanisms for health care practitioners including in regards to medical malpractice, safety or licensing requirements”. Click here to read a summary, justification and the full bill analysis. Arizona and Colorado have introduced similar bills and you can read more about them here.
If you want more information about laws proposed in your state, please go to this interactive map from ACOG.