blackout blackouts black out

Bill: Stop forcing docs to report people who could black out

Katie KazimirGovernment, Headlines

blackout blackouts black out

A bill dealing with people whose medical conditions may cause them to black out passed through a committee.

State law now requires doctors to report people who have medical conditions that may cause them to lose consciousness to the Department of Motor Vehicles. 

They can lose their licenses as a result and end up in a months-long battle that drags the doctor in as they fight to get it back.

House Bill 314, which unanimously cleared the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee Tuesday, would change that. 

Sponsored by Rep. Sean Matthews, D-Middletown, the act amends Titles 21 and 24 of state code regarding driver’s license status due to certain medical conditions and blackouts.

If it becomes law,  it would no longer be mandated for doctors to report patients who have an illness that could cause them to become unconscious – such as an epileptic or a diabetic – to the DMV.

Many doctors say that the law doesn’t take into account people whose conditions are well treated and under control, who are unlikely to black out.

“Delaware’s current legislation is discriminatory against individuals with epilepsy,” said the bill’s co-sponsor Rep. Edward S. Osienski, D-Newark.

Fainting due to causes unrelated to the nervous system or other medical conditions that may affect the ability to drive safely are not addressed in the statute as it stands. 

For example, there is no requirement to report that someone who experiences repeated loss of consciousness from a diabetic episode or cardiac issue, or that someone has severe dementia.

“Mandatory reporting places physicians in the awkward role of a law enforcement officer,” Osienski said.

“Consequently, patients may be hesitant to truthfully disclose seizures or other episodes of loss of consciousness to their present physician due to the fear of losing their licenses.”

ER black outs

Neurologist Robert Varipapa said mandatory reporting has created a big problem, especially in emergency rooms, because anybody who comes into the emergency room with a fainting spell gets reported to DMV.

“The DMV has this huge backlog of people that shouldn’t even be reported, Varipapa said. “And then they come to my office and I have to deal with it for three or four months until we can get their license back.

“That creates an undue hardship on patients.”

Another problem with mandatory reporting is it tries to put everybody in the same box , he said.

“You can’t put round circles into square slots, so to speak,” Varipapa said. “So this legislation is going to decrease the backlog, it’s going to allow physicians to practice medicine.”

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He said the bill will allow him and other medical professionals to deal with cases on an individual basis, and do what’s ethically best for both the patient and the public good.

“I really needed flexibility in this area, and I’m certainly happy that we’re moving along in this direction,” Varipapa said.

The bill would also:

  • Give permission for all licensed practitioners, including nurse practitioners and physician assistants, treating a driver for a medical condition to report findings to the Division of Motor Vehicles;
  • Change the authority of determining the status of one’s driver’s license due to medical conditions to the Secretary of Transportation. Currently the Secretary of Health and Social Services makes those decisions;
  • Update the Medical Council, which is no longer active, to the Board of Medical Licensure.


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