Pennsylvania Doctor’s Attack on “Medical Gag Rule” Dismissed

On Monday, a Federal District Court granted motions dismissing Dr. Alfonso Rodriguez’ lawsuit as against the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Attorney General on the grounds that Dr. Rodriguez lacks standing to sue.

Dr. Rodriguez’ lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of, what he called, the Medical Gag Rules of Pennsylvania’s Act 13.  The Medical Gag Rules provide that under certain circumstances, including when the information is necessary for diagnosis or treatment, doctors may request that fracking companies identify chemicals used in the procedure that are otherwise protected as trade secrets and/or proprietary information.  The fracking companies are required to comply with this request if the doctor provides a confidentiality agreement.

Dr. Rodriguez, a nephrologist, argues that he needs to know to which chemicals his hemodialysis patients have been exposed and which chemicals are present in the local water that he uses, so that he can test his patients for those chemicals and monitor their removal from the patients’ blood.  He further argued that the Medical Gag Rules interfere with his ability to collect this necessary information as required by the ethical obligations imposed by his profession.

However, Judge A. Richard Caputo dismissed the doctor’s lawsuit as lacking standing, in that the doctor did not suffer an injury-in-fact and that, even if he had, the injury would not be redressed by a favorable decision.  The Court held that any potential injury that Dr. Rodriguez suffered was speculative and conjectural because he failed to allege that he had not been able to practice medicine adequately without certain information or that he had made an attempt to obtain certain information and been denied.  Further, the Court held, even if the Medical Gag Rules were declared unconstitutional and could not be enforced, Dr. Rodriguez would still not have the information he seeks.

Judge Caputo’s full decision can be viewed here .


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