Van De Kamp, 061284 CAAGO, AGO 83-1006

Docket Nº:AGO 83-1006
Case Date:June 12, 1984
Court:California
 
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JOHN K. VAN DE KAMP Attorney General
RONALD M. WEISKOPF Deputy Attorney General
AGO 83-1006
No. 83-1006
California Attorney General Opinion
Office of the Attorney General State of California
June 12, 1984
         THE STATE PERSONNEL BOARD has asked for an opinion on the following question.          Do the reporting requirements of section 410(1) of the Health and Safety Code apply to state physicians who review medical reports and health questionnaires of applicants for state employment but take no part in the diagnosis and treatment of particular conditions?          CONCLUSION          In appropriate circumstances described herein the reporting requirements of section 410(1) of the Health and Safety Code apply to state physicians who review medical reports and health questionnaires of applicants for state employment even though they take no part in the diagnosis and treatment of particular conditions.          ANALYSIS          Section 410 of the Health and Safety Code requires "all physicians [to] report immediately to the local health officer . . . the name, date of birth, and address of every person diagnosed as a case of a disorder characterized by lapses of consciousness." (§ 410(1).) As required by the section, the local health officer then transmits that information to the State Department of Health (§ 410(2)) which in turn reports it to the Department of Motor Vehicles (§ 410(3)) where it is kept confidential and used solely for the purpose of determining the eligibility of the person to operate a motor vehicle on the highways of this state. (§ 410(4); 58 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 338, 339 (1975).)          Section 410 does not itself define the phrase "disorders characterized by lapses of consciousness" but provides instead for the State Department of Health to do so for its purposes.1 (§ 410.) Pursuant to that charge, at section 2572 of its regulations the State Department of Health has defined "what shall constitute a reportable case of a disorder characterized by lapses of consciousness" as follows:
"Any person aged 14 years or older who during the preceding three years, has experienced on one or more occasions, either a lapse of consciousness or an episode of marked confusion, caused by any condition which may bring about recurrent lapses, including momentary lapses of consciousness or episodes of marked confusion, shall be considered to have a disorder characterized by lapses of consciousness and shall be reportable. "This definition includes, but is not limited to persons subject to lapses of consciousness or episodes of marked confusion resulting from neurological disorders, senility, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, alcoholism or excessive use of alcohol sufficient to bring about blackouts (retrograde amnesia for their activities while drinking). (17 Cal. Admin. Code, § 2572.)
         As is apparent, the two saliencies of this definition are (1) that symptomatology of either a lapse of consciousness or an episode of marked confusion has been demonstrated within the three preceding years; and (2) that the condition producing those symptoms be one that may bring about their recurrence. The focus of the definition then, i.e., what is to "trigger" reporting under the statute, is not the existence of any particular disorder, although six are named, but rather, the existence of one which has previously brought about (manifested itself in) symptomatic lapses or episodes and which has the ability to cause or bring about their recurrence in the future. (58 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen., supra, at 339, 340, 341.) However, although the section (2572) thus "eschews enumeration of particular disorders as falling within its definition and instead generically identifies reportable disorders on the basis of certain commonly-shared [symptomatic] characteristics" (id., at 339), the need for a medical identification of their cause "is explicit in the statute and implicit in the Department's definition," and thus a diagnosis of the causative condition is also a "precondition to reporting." (Id., at 341; accord Lopez v. Southern Cal. Permanente Group (1981) 115 Cal.App.3d 673, 678.) In sum then, under the statutory scheme "persons . . . become reportable when the combination of symptomatology [i.e., the demonstrated characteristics of lapses of consciousness or episodes of marked confusion] and etiology [i.e., causes of the condition] which the Department has structured as its definition of 'disorders characterized by lapses of consciousness' is medically identified" (id., at 344), i.e., when it is diagnosed.          In 1975 we concluded that both the physician who may originally have diagnosed a person's reportable condition (e.g., a neurologist) and a physician who, being apprised of the diagnosis, subsequently treats it are required to report a patient to the local health officer under section 410(a). (58 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen., supra, at 338, 344.) The question now arises whether state physicians (medical officers) who take no part in the diagnosis or treatment of a particular patient's "reportable disorder" but who learn about it while "administratively" reviewing an application for state employment are required to report under the section. We conclude that they are and, accordingly, that when a state medical officer becomes possessed of sufficient information to trigger the section's reporting...

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