'Doctors shouldn't have job of reporting incapable drivers'

IMA wants doctors’ responsibility to report incapable drivers shifted elsewhere.

January 25, 2012 07:09
1 minute read.
Doctors [illustrative]

Doctors residents x-ray 311. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)


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Doctors are regularly threatened by patients whose health makes them dangerous drivers not to report their condition to the authorities so they won’t lose their driver’s licenses, according to Prof. Avinoam Reches, head of the Israel Medical Association’s (IMA) ethics bureau.

Reches, a senior neurologist at Hadassah University Medical Center, was participating in a Tuesday session of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee that discussed doctors’ responsibility for reporting disability or disease that requires license cancellation.

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The IMA ethics bureau chief said that as a result of patients’ threats – and doctors’ concern that they will lose patients if they report them – there are many drivers who should not be on the road. The responsibility to report to the Health Ministry, which sends data to the Transportation Ministry’s Licensing Bureau, “is a blow to doctor-patient relationships and causes physicians economic harm,” Reches said.

Yedida Razlan, head of driving standards and road safety at the Transportation Ministry, said that every month an average of 15 people have their licenses canceled due to serious vision problems. Some of these people have less than 30 percent of normal vision.

Razlan maintained that the current situation, in which family physicians who know their patients well and report to the Health Ministry on disability, is “satisfactory.”

Ch.-Supt. Noam Bignasky, who heads the accident bureau in the Traffic Police, said that patients who cannot function well as drivers should not be given responsibility for reporting themselves, as “they will lie and not report their disability.”

He said the police cannot conduct medical investigations into every road accident, because it would involve too much red tape due to the need for courts to issue orders against violators.

Acting committee chairman MK Afo Agbaria said that the situation today is improper, as doctors who need their patients’ confidence cannot report to the authorities about disability that will lead to the revocation of their drivers’ licenses. In an era of advanced technologies, institutions such as the health funds can go into medical files and report to the authorities instead of personal physicians doing it.

Agbaria called on the health funds and the relevant government ministries to report back to the Knesset committee within three months on more ways for the authorities to cope with the problem without requiring physicians to be involved as “tattlers.”

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