HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling is reviving a challenge to a provision that requires doctors to sign a confidentiality agreement in return for access to proprietary information on chemicals used by the booming natural gas industry.
The high court's Thursday decision reversed a Commonwealth Court decision that had dismissed the challenge by Dr. Mehernosh Khan, and is ordering the lower court to take up the case.
The Commonwealth Court's decision last year had said Khan could not challenge the provision because he had not requested the confidential information or found that the chemicals pose a health hazard to a patient.
But the Supreme Court's 4-2 decision on a wider challenge to the modernization of Pennsylvania's oil and gas drilling law ruled that Khan's claim is worthy of being decided in court.
Khan's lawyers say the law forces him to choose between obeying the law versus his ethical obligation as a physician.
"He has a right to have that dilemma resolved now," said Jordan Yeager, one of the lawyers who represented Khan. "He shouldn't have to wait for something else to happen before this can be addressed."
Patrick Henderson, Gov. Tom Corbett's adviser on energy policy, said the law does not stop a physician or health professional from sharing information with a patient or other physicians. The law, Henderson said, is based on a similar rule in Colorado and ensures that Pennsylvania's health professionals are entitled to the information, and use it in the care of a patient.
Henderson said he is unaware of any actual problems that have been caused by the law in the nearly two years since Corbett signed it.