Public risk outweighs privacy rights

A law passed late last year allows doctors to alert state officials if they believe that a patient’s medical condition makes it unsafe for that patient to drive a motor vehicle.
May 13, 2013


Several have cried foul, claiming the law violates the privacy rights of the patient.

We disagree.

When someone gets behind the wheel and pulls out onto a public roadway, that person is responsible not only for him or herself, but for all the other people who share the road.

We’re all for the confidentiality of the relationship between a doctor and a patient — but when that privacy puts others at risk, then we agree that doctors should have the right, and the moral responsibility, to step in and say something.

While this will undoubtedly keep our roads safer, this law also lends a helping hand to those who have aging parents or grandparents who are no longer fit, be it physically or mentally, to get behind the wheel.

A son or daughter's attempt to take that right away from Mom or Dad could lead to hurt feelings and plenty of family strife. Having a health care professional step in and make the call takes the responsibility out of the hands of the family.

We typically take exception to laws that infringe on our freedoms, but we’re willing to make an exception when those laws are clearly aimed at making the world a safer place, and this is an obvious example of that.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.



Snitches get stiches…….. So will this mean that every time a doctor prescribes a narcotic that he or she needs to call the authority’s and tell them that they know of a person under the influence of the drug that he or she just has prescribed? Stupid law


I can see this bull**** being taken to new levels. So now doctors are allowed to make judgment calls as to a patient's moral obligations? What is next... drivers' license numbers when purchasing alcohol beverages because the buyer may drive while intoxicated at some point... or everyone with a Medical Marijuana card is suspect? I guess the Pioneer Resources busses will be in the money. However , on the flipside, if antidepressants are included, at least there will be a lot less traffic on Michigan roads... at least until "cabin fever" subsides a tad bit. LMAO


Or how about when someone has a seizure and shouldn't drive for 6 months? I would feel much safer knowing that grandpa driving in the next lane had 20/20 eye sight and not 20/200.


Hey, hey, hey, easy on the grandpa stuff there youngster, there is a reason that insurance companies give the elderly the best rates.


I stand corrected Mac, open mouth insert foot, research and apologize. Seems the elderly, talking over 75 now, should be required to complete a basic skills course to continue to operate a vehicle.



This article says doctors are "allowed" to report people who should not drive. Does it "require" them to do so? If I were a doctor, and had an option to report such a driver, I would be very careful. One could get in legal hot water in many cases. Prejudice, medical incompetence, unethical behavior - all could be reasons to go to court!


I think that this law was a good step in the right direction on trying to make the roadways a safer place. But I also feel that there are quiet few bugs that may need to be worked out when it comes to this law. Like when is the doctor actually obligated to make that kind of decision, and what would happen if a doctor made the wrong decision? There are laws out there to protect a patient and for their personal medical history not to be known unless you have their personal permission. But I am sure there are creative ways to relay that type of information without giving out personal medical information such as you are on the list but we have no idea why and you need to clear that up with your attending physician.
I totally understand the whole someone’s rights getting taken away from them but what about the rights of the people that end up injured due to the fact that someone was not in their right frame of mind or body to make a clear level headed decision? I feel that somebody should be able to step in and be an advocate for that person to protect them and others. I am by no means saying that every case qualifies for someone to be put on that list but it is kind of a scary scenario when you are sitting in the DMV and you personally watch someone get their license renewed and it is clearly obvious that maybe they should be evaluated a little bit better when their spouse is leading them by the hand and telling them to go this way and that way and the person has a dazed look like they have no clue where the heck they are. And can barely walk


Call it what you will, however I think this a good change for the safety of the older drivers and others possibly at risk. How many accidents have there been where the driver confuses the brake and gas pedal resulting in an accident? I can think of at least 5 in the past couple years in this area alone.

Here are a couple exerts on people with Dementia and Alzheimer's disease

When an individual is diagnosed with dementia, one of the first concerns that families and caregivers face is whether or not that person should drive. A diagnosis of dementia may not mean that a person can no longer drive safely. In the early stages of dementia, some – though not all – individuals may still possess skills necessary for safe driving. Most dementia, however, is progressive, meaning that symptoms such as memory loss, visual-spatial disorientation, and decreased cognitive function will worsen over time. This also means that a person’s driving skills will decrease and, eventually, he or she will have to give up driving. Many people associate driving with self-reliance and freedom; the loss of driving privileges is likely to be upsetting. Some individuals, recognizing the risks, will limit or stop driving on their own. Others may be unable to assess their own driving skills and may insist on driving even when it is no longer safe. Families and caregivers may have to intervene when an individual’s symptoms pose too great a traffic risk.

Because the progression of dementia varies from person to person, it is difficult to know at what point an individual can no longer drive safely.
Although laws vary from state to state, some states require physicians to notify the DMV of any patient diagnosed with dementia. The person with dementia may then be required to report to the DMV for a behind-the-wheel driver re-examination. In some states, individuals diagnosed with moderate or severe dementia may have their licenses automatically revoked. To find out about driving and dementia laws, you can call the Department of Motor Vehicles for the state in which the individual resides.


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