'Political Intrusion on Exam Rooms' Must Stop, Op-Ed States

July 29, 2014 — "There is a trend across the country that deeply concerns us and our fellow health-care advocates and providers: political intrusion on exam rooms," Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, and Charles Cutler, former chair of the American College of Physicians Board of Regents, write in a Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece.

Ness and Cutler explain that several "states have considered or enacted laws that mandate bad medicine, undermining the relationships between patients and health-care providers." These laws regulate what providers can or must say to patients about abortion, gun safety, environmental hazards and other topics. For example, a Pennsylvania law mandates that "providers offer women irrelevant and unnecessary information designed to discourage them from seeking an abortion."

Ness and Cutler write, "Interference like this has to stop, and there is a chance to make that happen here in Pennsylvania." The Pennsylvania legislation, called the Patient Trust Act (HB 2303), "was recently introduced by Sen. Mike Stack [D] as part of the Pennsylvania Women's Health Agenda" and is "expected to be introduced in the House this week by Rep. Dan Frankel [D]," they explain.

The bill would "help ensure that health-care providers are not required to give their patients information that is medically inaccurate or, conversely, prohibited from giving them information that is appropriate and accurate," they write, adding that it would "also help ensure that providers are not required to deliver care that is inconsistent with evidence-based medical standards, or prevented from delivering care that adheres to such standards."

Ness and Cutler argue that enacting the legislation "would be an important step toward protecting the patient-provider relationship and ensuring that politics don't trump high-quality health care" (Cutler/Ness, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/28).