Doctors ask for protection if they report patients who shouldn't be driving

May 25, 2012

Michigan doctors who report patients with a medical condition that could impair their driving ability would not be held liable under proposed legislation. 

It's a dilemma for doctors:  Tell the Secretary of State about a patient who should not be behind the wheel -- and they breach confidentiality. Or, don't report them, and face liability if someone is injured in a crash involving that patient.

Dr. Marianna Spanaki  is a neurologist at Henry Ford Medical Group. She says confidentiality is a cornerstone of a patient-doctor relationship.

"However, there are some medical conditions that impair fitness to drive, Spanaki says. "We are equally responsible for providing the best care to our patients, and insure the patient's safety, as well as the public safety."

Spanaki says two bills in the Senate would protect doctors from criminal or civil liability if they choose to report -- or not to report -- a medical condition that could impair a patient's ability to drive.

She also says families play an important role in preventing people with compromised driving abilities from getting behind the wheel.