Friday, April 13, 2007

Vasovagal Response and Criminal Intent

Vasovagal Response is a medical term for near fainting. It is also what I experienced yesterday morning.

It can be triggered by a variety of ordinary things, when the body has an exaggerated response and a subsequent drop in blood pressure. Happily, people recover quickly, even if they experience a Vasovagal Syncope and lose consciousness.

It was very distressing to to experience a clammy sweat, loud ringing in the ears, and the room going suddenly quite dim for no apparent reason. I had the opportunity to find out how very fast and effectively our local emergency response team can work. Within minutes of placing a 911 call, they arrived, gave me oxygen and started a saline drip. Most surprising was the portable equipment they used to take an EKG reading, complete with print-out.

I'm happy to report that my blood pressure and EKG and all other systems are quite normal and healthy. There may be a complication from the event, though.

Here in Oregon, fainting is categorized with other criminal activities, and strictly regulated by the state. A law passed in 2003 requires doctors to report fainters. Then a letter is issued by the state (not the Department of Motor Vehicles) which instructs the fainter to report to their doctor for evaluation of said fainting, or lose their driver's license. The doctor must send a subsequent report to the state, under penalty of losing his license to practice medicine. The report the doctor sends to the state is confidential and the patient is not allowed to see the report! (I found that most troubling.)

Although I did not lose consciousness yesterday, I did faint in 2003. I'd had the flu or something, and was at home when it happened, but the state still suspended my driver's license when I missed their deadline to see my doctor for evaluation. In a domino effect, our car insurance company cancelled our car insurance, and would not insure my husband separately as long as my driver's license was in suspension.

After I reported to my doctor, the state reissued my driver's license on the condition that I report to my doctor for evaluation every six months for the next three years. If I had been driving when I fainted, I would see the necessity for the state to be concerned. People usually have the good sense to stay home when they aren't well, which is where I was when I fainted. The fact that I can faint in my own home and yet the state involves itself the minute I tell my doctor is disturbing. Driving while ill enough to make operating a vehicle hazardous could be construed as reckless endangerment. Staying home in bed while ill enough to make operating a vehicle hazardous? I would call that common sense and good judgement.

Women can (and sometimes do) faint while pregnant, because it puts an extra load on their bodies. Should pregnant women be banned from driving because that could happen? Men who stay up all night to study for a college exam could possibly get dizzy or even pass out briefly while driving. Should all college students be banned from driving?

At what point should the state insert its judgement and control into the decision to drive a vehicle? After someone has operated a vehicle with poor judgement? Or before?

That is the crux of the matter.


heather said...

holy crap. that is wild.

glad you're ok..!

Pandababy said...

Thanks Heather. I had a hard time believing my home state had passed such a law, and so did everyone I know. It makes me wonder what other legislation is happening...

Jaye Patrick said...

Wow, P., that is out there, but they must have passed the law for a reason.

Then again, it's extremely intrusive and against privacy laws - if you have them. What bothers me the most is that you're not allowed to view the report - that's authoritarian and gives the doctor undue power over your life.

You're right to ask the question, though: What else have your legislators passed without telling the public at large because it's only 'in their best interests'?

Pandababy said...

Jaye, you hit the crucial points exactly -- violates privacy and is authoritarian. My state Senator couldn't give me a reason for the law when I phoned his office, aside from the blanket "in their best interests" that you mentioned.

Why is it that laws passed "in the best interests" of the public" seem to go begging serious questions as to Constitutional rights?