Wednesday, August 18, 2004

If you live in Pennsylvania, definitely lie to your doctor 

Pennsylvania has a law that requires doctors to report any impairment that could compromise a patient's ability to drive safely. Presumably the original intent of the 40 year old law was to catch impaired vision, memory or reflexes. But at least one Pennsylvania doctor and the corresponding judge has applied the law to doctor-patient communications about alcohol consumption.
Just telling a doctor how much you drink at home may be enough to get your driver's license suspended in Pennsylvania.

A judge has ruled that the state can suspend the driver's license of a man who told his doctor he drank a six-pack of beer a day.

To be clear, there was no allegation that the driver involved actually drove under the influence. He merely confessed to drinking a six-pack a day, which fact alone is apparently enough to deprive him of his license.

It is hard to imagine a more foolish and counterproductive social policy. The Keystone State is forcing people to choose between honest communications with their physician over matters that could have huge consequences for their health and their license to drive. I think it is safe to say that most people, if informed of this requirement, would lie to their doctors. Indeed, my informal and unscientific poll of Pennsylvania residents in my circle of friends suggests that virtually all Pennsylvania drinkers will soon be lying like rugs. The net effect of this new interpretation of the law, therefore, will be worse public health and virtually no reduction in drunk driving on Pennsylvania's roads. Brilliant.


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