Doctors Fighting Gag Rule in Pennsylvania


iStock_000003455183XSmallIf you’ve been exposed to dangerous fracking chemicals, your doctor can find out what these chemicals are—but can’t tell you! Action Alert!

As we reported last year, fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a method of natural gas extraction employed in deep natural gas well drilling that can threaten water supplies. Once a well is drilled, millions of gallons of water, sand, and 596 different proprietary chemicals are injected under high pressure into the well shaft. The pressure fractures the shale and opens fissures that enable natural gas to flow more freely out.

The chemicals enter the water table and the air, causing severe pollution. As proponents of integrative medicine know, the body’s chemical burden, due in great measure to environmental pollutants, may trigger or worse many diseases—and some of the chemicals released during the fracking process are particularly toxic. They include:

  • benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene, which in low levels can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches, tremors, confusion, and unconsciousness, and in high concentrations can cause leukemia and death;
  • barium, which is found in underground ore deposits and can cause high blood pressure, breathing difficulties, muscle weakness, swelling of the brain, and kidney damage;
  • radium, a naturally occurring radioactive (and carcinogenic) substance; and
  • strontium, which is necessary in trace amounts for bone development, but in too large amounts can disrupt it and cause cancer.

Then there’s the question of what to do with the contaminated water. Standard procedure is to use disposal wells drilled deep into the earth; each well uses about 4.5 million gallons of chemical-laced water. Many experts believe that the use of these disposal wells is creating earthquakes—and data from Midwest shows that it is happening more often than originally thought. A US Geological Survey report found that the frequency of earthquakes started rising in 2001 across a broad swath of the country between Alabama and Montana. In 2009, there were 50 earthquakes greater than magnitude-3.0, then 87 quakes in 2010. The 134 earthquakes in the zone last year is a sixfold increase over 20th century levels.

So what if your physician believes you may be ill from fracking chemicals, but needs to know which ones to make sure your diagnosis and treatment are correct? A Pennsylvania law signed earlier this year allows physicians to access information about the proprietary chemicals being used (which are protected by trade secrets) so they can help their patients who are sick from the chemicals. But here’s the catch: they have to sign a confidentiality agreement that they won’t tell anyone else—not you their patients, and not even other doctors—what’s in those formulas. It’s being called the “doctor gag rule.”

The Pennsylvania gag rule is strikingly similar to a law in Colorado—which also influenced laws in Texas and Ohio. In Colorado there was near silence on the issue. The Texas Medical Association actually endorsed the doctor gag rule!

Happily, such quiet compliance at the expense of citizens’ health doesn’t have to be the norm in other states. A new bill has been introduced in Pennsylvania that would remove the gag rule. HB 2415 allows the health professional to disclose information on the chemicals to anyone she or he determines is necessary for the patient’s diagnosis or treatment—whether that be another health professional, the patient, or a public health official.

The Pennsylvania bill is currently in the state’s Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. If you are a Pennsylvania resident, contact your legislators immediately and voice your support for HB 2415. Restore your doctor’s freedom of speech and your right to know about what is making you sick! Please take action today!

  • Robert Elder

    If the information is known then it must be shared with the patient.

  • Michael Carpenter

    For everyone the Chems. hurts, you hurt one of them.

  • Nancy Radford

    This is a travesty and shows just jow much our government can be purchased…if we let it be…

  • This is despicable even evil! Ya get what you give- these doctors who comply w/ this, if it doesn’t bother them then they are less than human; if it bothers them then they need to stand up and say “no way” and fight this, i’m sure there must be an attorney somewhere who will also take up the cause! Just my two cents.

  • Confidentiality agreements which endanger public health are obviously void and unenforceable. Imagine if someone murdered someone and made a contract with you to keep the deed private; you would still be charged with accessory to murder. If chemicals are killing or injuring people, the same would apply. Disobedience is the lawful remedy to tyranny. If you need to learn how to disobey, see “How to disobey unjust laws”, and download the workbook at

  • Why don’t we gag the frackers with their own chemicals. If I am being poisoned I would like to know by whom & with what? Aren’t our rights counting for anything anymore or is it only for corporations and big business. We are being run over by big money.

  • It is wrong to keep knowledge from people about their own health.

  • Y.D. Jordan

    Coward people of Pennsylvania, I pity you. Be a hero to numerous animals who can’t speak! Be their voice and you’ll feel much better, trust me

  • Twila Finkelstein

    Please, be loving, fair, kind to humans. Harming humans, making them sick mentlly and physically will kill off the population in a horrible, slow death. Unabiliyt to procreate due to fracking will hasten our demise. Who needs Armagedon when big oil can do the job alone.

  • Gloria Linda Maldonado

    This is a violation of our right to know.

  • Tom Cooper

    This all started with Cheney’s secret meetings with Big Oil. After the financial disaster of 2007 transparency is going to win.

    I have the right to know what my MD knows about possible threats to my health.

  • Hans Fitzsimmons

    It’s morally disgusting that in the name of making money, peoples health and future prospects get cast to the wayside as though they were wartime casualties…I don’t know how the people in charge sleep at night.

  • Steve Vedder

    It would be nice to see a list of all the states and what their law is on this matter.

  • Has common sense been bypassed so big business makes money? This is absurd!!!!!

  • Ronald L Hildebrand

    The gag rule about physicians not being permitted to disclose to patients certain chemicals that may be causing their illness is criminal!

    We have a right to know what makes us ill, if only so we can avoid it. And it violates our right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, even if proscribed by law: Any law that protects the corporate harm of individual persons goes against any reasonable interpretation of the very logic that was used in the creation of this nation, and the implementation of our Constitution.

    R Hildebrand

  • icwhite02

    This is EXACTLY WHY the Republicans are trying to do away with the EPA! With the corporate money & power of the Koch Brothers, the AMA has essentially been bought & paid for with the Republican promise of ending Obamacare! The corporations plan on getting rich by FRACKING & POLLUTING with IMPUNITY & the AMA & all the insurance companies plan on getting their cut with all the illnesses, diseases, & cancers resulting from this HIGHLY TOXIC FORM OF ENVIRONMENTAL RAPE!
    Jesus said when He returned He would “DESTROY THOSE DESTROYING THE EARTH!” At no other time, except when the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima & Nagasaki, has that term “DESTROYING THE EARTH!’ been so PERTINENT! When will they see the error of what they are doing, when the 1/3 of the waters of the earth become as “red as the blood of a DEAD man!”
    What color is the blood of a DEAD man? Dark reddish brown! What else about the blood of a DEAD man? It CONGEALS! and 1/3 of the living things in these waters shall DIE! From POISON? Sure! From lack of oxygen? Of course!
    Just like the acid lake in Butte Montana, where they have to set up motion-detecting noise cannons to prevent wild geese, ducks, & swans from landing in it because it will MELT the flesh right off their bones!

    “Perhaps they could call it Poisonville National Park. Poisonville. That’s the name Dashiell Hammett, America’s hardboiled Dante, gave to Butte in Red Harvest, his strange nocturnal novel of corruption and corporate filth. “The city wasn’t pretty,” writes Hammett on the opening page of Red Harvest. “Most of its builders had gone in for gaudiness. Maybe they had been successful at first. Since then the smelters whose brick stacks struck up tall against a gloomy mountain to the south had yellow-smudge everything into uniform dinginess. The result was an ugly city of forty thousand people, set in an ugly notch between two ugly mountains that had been all dirtied up by mining. Spread over this was grimy sky that looked as if it had come out of the smelters’ stacks.”

    That was written in 1929.” copied from COUNTERPUNCH!

  • Russell Skinner

    This is nuts

  • Laurie Buckley

    No doctor in this nation should ever be asked to keep the secret of chemicals to a patient…it’s their life….no state, no company should EVER be allowed to manifest such an invasion of privacy between a doctor, his patient and his diagnosis…it’s unthinkable…

  • Carol Krez

    It is simple. The frackers know that the chemicals they use are horribly toxic but they DO NOT want people to know what they are: It is hard to fight that which you cannot name. These corporate decision makers KNOW full well that fracking is an environmental disaster; that it causes earthquakes and poisons ground water but THEY DON’T CARE. They just want whatever profit they can make and the rest of us be damned. WE MUST NOT LET THEM GET AWAY WITH THIS!

    • Judy Kayden

      What good is money if there isn’t any good water to drink? Your reply was very good.

    • ACurtis

      Tried to help but can’t send a petition because I’m not from PA. But wanted everyone there to know that those of us in other states stand behind you and support you. This could be my/our state and us fighting against all of these toxic pollutants.

      As someone who had severe heavy toxicity and had to chelate four times, I feel your pain (mine was because of an unknown genetic liver mutation that doesn’t allow my body to detox or metabolize correctly).

      I believe Big Corporations should invest in new ways of finding and using energy rather than digging up Mother Earth and poisoning us with what’s released into the air, ground, and water. In fact, did you know that there is a way to make cold fusion that could give everyone in the world electricity for a pittance? We can’t have it, though, because the big corporations don’t/can’t/aren’t able to fill their pockets with loads of loot. If they can’t get rich off it, we don’t get it. I’m sorry; did I miss something? Since when do they dictate what we can and cannot have?

      The consciousness of humanity is rising; here’s to the possibility that soon, rather than later, all of humanity will have what they need, without scarcity, without spending a fortune, and without harming Mother Earth. I’m living for that day.

  • nancy gooch

    Gag rules on doctors are a violation of free speech.

  • Patricia Davis

    I was born and raised in western Pennsylvania and am appalled at the fracking gag rule for doctors. I want my family who still live there to have access to accurate health information at all times.

  • Thomas Mueller

    This is an abuse of trade-secret protection. Government, national and local, ought to derecognize trade secrets, meaning trade secrets would have no legal recognition. Let trade secrets be handled by the corporations themselves but with no protection by government.

    • Judy Zitko

      You got that right. These special interest corporations don’t care about people, they care only for profit and will go to any lengths to get more at the expense of the environment, health and our very democracy.


    We have no confidence in government oversight and our doctors must be allowed to inform us about dangers to us and especially our children.

  • Whatever happend to the freedom of information act? Wouldn’t it work here?
    cincerely, John O’Connell

    • Vera

      Does this confidentiality mean the Doctor can’t tell me what chemical is making me sick? how does this work? The Doctor can ask the Gas Company for their formula used in drilling/fracking
      and but can’t tell me the patient or anyone else what ingredient is responsible?

    • to find out what happend to the freedom of information act, we must look at P.H.I. Personal health information act. first of all i would like you to recall, 9/11. Remember then, when you knew, instantly, that those morons love thier word and number plays??/ right? You with me?? K? Ok. – P.H.I. . the golden ratio? starting to notice where im going with this??
      Have you ever had to sign a paper saying you understand your rights under the constitution? No of course not. But you are denied health care if you don’t sign, Phi. and since you have probably been to the so called “doctors” (ie;nazi-dictators), since 9/11, and signed this special little nazi mauver, you have agreed to have the right, to give up your rights under the constitution. it means that everyone has the right to see your records, except you, giving the nazi’s carte blanche to change, (tamper with) your records and boy oh boy do they ever…Dont even bother to try to recind it. you will just be denied medical care. I wouldnt call what they do to people caring, it is more accurate to call it selective extermination Please read me White Tiger Star 5 Pamela Cordeiro on and facebook. Blessed be-

    • Lori Lydic

      Unfortunately, there are certain clauses within the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that “protected” information can not be shared – so merely requesting the data through a FOIA would produce no results. The “Haliburton Act” was passed quickly through legislation to block public access of over 50 chemicals used in Hydro-fracking. We know of some of the chemicals – such as Benzene (which is highly carcinogenic and a neuro toxin) but many of the poisons used are redacted from record.

  • Lisa

    This is just like the gag rule that failed in Florida–that a doctor cannot mention to any patients about the dangers of guns in the home. OVERTURNED.
    We the People need to demand truth and transparency–not the secrecy and suppression that dominates America all in the name of profit.

  • Joanne T Becker

    If anyone reading this discussion on no-disclosure by doctors treating victims of fracking chemicals saw the movie, “Gasland”, you are already afraid for your lives. These poor people were scammed, lied to, poisoned and found their homes were toxic prisons, due to greed and corruption by Big Business. Those people are racketeers and criminals.
    Those who are victimized will try to sue, but without any evidence of what chemicals were implicated in their sickness, they will have a hard row to hoe. I doubt that doctors could be forced to break the ‘contract’ or pledge they give to the fracking companies. There is also the pact doctors have to keep private the medical information from those they treat. Unless the patient is dead, doctors are bound by their oath. Unfortunately, much of the necessary information may be garnered from that source,

    • chay

      We have a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws! Just because they passed a law to enslave, harm, destroy and allow big business to do whatever they want, doesn’t mean WE HAVE TO LET THEM, WE DON’T HAVE TO OBEY UNJUST LAWS!
      We are not slaves, we are not children, we must fight with our last breath this plan to legislate us into slavery and silent obedience.
      If we must rebel, then so be it! This nation was founded by rebellion!

  • John Walker Linn started the Gag Rule to kill his people!

  • Caroline

    Why is a special law necessary to “allow” doctors to Talk?

    What about the first amendment? Isn’t free speech protected thereunder?

    This seems extraordinary to me.

    How can America brag of being a free country when special legislation is required to *allow* somebody to *talk* ?

    • Doctors are not governed by the first amendment they are governed by the contracts they sigh to get a licence to practice medicine. they agree to abide by the rules and regs of being a doctor and forgo the rights under the Constitution for the privilege of carrying a licence to practice. Dr 007 licensed to kill and push drugs. See matrix —you are a battery Neo?

  • Caroline

    Those who gag the truth about Anything Harmful to Anybody or Anything, should rightfully be jailed as violent criminals.

    “First, Do No Harm”.

  • V

    And we want government to control our healthcare?

  • Robert K.

    Well, it seems to me that anything that pertains to the public health and welfare would trump any private contract of secrecy., But beyond that, if I remember correctly, the Supreme Court, also opened the door by ruling in at least one instance that Corporations were “people”. So why not charge these Corporate “people” with murder, or attempted murder and seize their assets and imprison their executives pending a court trial for their criminal activities? I’m sure that a laundry list as long as the CEO’s bank ledger could be run up to give them enough worry to initiate some changes to the way they operate. It might be worth a try. That or frack their corporate offices while they are having their monthly meetings of the board.

    • please see the various law dictionaries– people are corporations. It is not that corporations are given rights as people, but you have become a corporate citizen and now have privileges granted by the state corps and the fed corp not rights under the constitution – you contracted out of them –see constitution articular one section 10 –contract law. hundreds of books have been written about us -Legal fiction-