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Middle District of Pennsylvania Dismisses Physician's Challenge to Act 13

On October 23rd, the Middle District of Pennsylvania dismissed Dr. Alfonso Rodriguez’s complaint challenging Act 13’s so-called “Medical Gag Act.”  If, during the course of treating a patient, a health professional deems it necessary for an operator to disclose the exact mixture of hydraulic fracturing fluids, Act 13 requires the operator to disclose the information upon a verbal acknowledgement by the health professional that the information will not be used for purposes other than the health needs asserted and must be maintained confidentially.

Dr. Rodriguez is a nephrologist who allegedly treats patients who have been directly exposed to high volume hydraulic fracturing fluid.  In his complaint, he alleged that Act 13 violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, and that it requires him to violate his ethical obligations as a physician.  The Court dismissed his complaint on the grounds that Dr. Rodriguez never suffered an actual injury and thus, did not have standing.  The Court held that the alleged injury was “too conjectural to satisfy the injury in fact requirement of Article III standing” which requires an alleged injury to be “distinct and palpable” rather than “abstract.”  In other words, Dr. Rodriguez does not have standing to sue because he has never been in a position “where he was required to agree to any sort of confidentiality agreement under the act.”  His alleged injuries are hypothetical.