Bill Would Give Doctors Discretion in Reporting Drivers Who Have Experienced Lapses of Consciousness
A bill (SB 212) by Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) would give doctors more discretion on whether to report to the Department of Motor Vehicles patients who experience lapses of consciousness, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Current state law requires doctors to report any patients with a disorder involving a lapse in consciousness to the DMV, which then decides if patients' driver's licenses should be revoked. The bill would make such disclosures voluntary except in the case of Alzheimer's, dementia or other disorders that cannot be controlled.
Under current law, failure to report patients who have experienced lapses in consciousness can result in medical license sanctions.
The California Medical Association supports SB 212.
About two-thirds of the 23,000 people reported each year for lapses of consciousness pose no safety risk on the road, according to Lowenthal. The bill would prevent people from being reported unnecessarily, he said.
Ignacio Hernandez, legislative advocate for CMA, said under the current law, doctors are required to "report someone who has the most severe case of epilepsy to someone who fainted because they had the flu and went to the gym to work out." He added, "If you're going to breach the physician-patient confidentiality, it should be when there is some sort of risk to public safety."
Hernandez said some doctors are concerned that patients do not report symptoms because they are concerned about losing their driving privileges under current law.
Michael McCloud, a geriatrician at the University of California-Davis Medical Center, said that patients withholding information about lapses in consciousness from their doctors to avoid being reported to DMV does not justify changing the current law. He said, "I appreciate the law we now have in California," adding, "It takes the pressure away from me" (Weaver Teichert, Sacramento Bee, 5/3).