doctor comforting patient

Your Doctor Was Never Trained for This

Australians enjoy some of the best medical care in the world.

And we’re now living longer than ever. A girl born today can expect to live 85 years, according to The Australian Bureau of Statistics. The average boy born today, is expected to live to 81.

Australians are also heavily reliant on their cars. Especially outside the major city centres. Without a car, you lose a lot of your freedom and independence.

Now, the combination of old age and driving don’t always go well together. That’s why in Victoria, for example, drivers over 75 must have their licenses renewed every three years.

Victoria also uses a self-reporting model. Aside from the individual themselves, the community — friends, family, police and doctors — can report drivers to VicRoads if they believe the driver may pose a danger to others.

Tragically, accidents still happen. And like young drivers, older drivers are over-represented in accident statistics.

That’s led to calls for Victoria to follow the policies in place in South Australia and the Northern Territory. Both SA and the NT mandate that doctors dob in their patients if they have a medical condition that may affect their driving.

It appears though, that this law has had no measurable impact on accident rates in either SA or NT.

As reported by The Age:

VicRoads executive director of access and operations Anita Curnow told the inquest there was “no compelling body of evidence” that demonstrated that mandatory reporting was more effective than self or community-based referral.’

What we do know is that the doctor patient relationship borders on sacred. And we believe the information you share with your doctor should remain confidential. More confidential, even, than Victoria’s existing policy. A policy that encourages doctors to report problematic medical conditions.

The vast majority of people — old and young — are already doing the responsible thing. Whether it’s failing vision, cognitive issues or other matters that can impact driving, only a tiny minority will continue to drive without seeking advice.

Admittedly, this is no black and white situation.

But forcing a doctor to provide the government with details of your private medical conditions, crosses a line.

First, it puts the burden on doctors of deciding when — and when not — to snitch on their patients. And if doctors become liable for any accidents you may cause, we’d expect most to err on the side of caution. Meaning when in doubt, they’ll send over your entire medical history to government bureaucrats.

But more importantly, this could have a chilling effect on which ailments patients choose to share with their doctors. Some patients may even cover up illnesses that wouldn’t impact their right to drive.

Either way, fear may keep older drivers from receiving the medical treatment they need. And that’s shameful in a nation with some of the best medical care in the world.

Let doctors do their jobs. And let VicRoads and other state authorities, do theirs.

And never the twain shall meet.

Bernd Struben

Bernd Struben

Bernd Struben is the lead editor at The Australian Tribune. Bernd makes use of his extensive network to bring you the top stories you need to know about each day. Stories the mainstream may miss. Or bury somewhere you’re unlikely to ever read them. Bernd studied aerospace engineering and journalism at the University of Michigan, before graduating with a degree in economics. Over the past two decades he’s worked in media, management, and finance in the US, the Caribbean, Europe, and Australia. His other role, as the editor of the Port Phillip Insider, puts him in a unique position to read Australia’s most exclusive financial advice. Some of which he shares with readers of The Australian Tribune for free.
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