Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Critics: Don’t tie driver’s licence renewal to psychiatric history

From today's edition of The Chronicle Herald:
By Jeffrey Simpson, Staff Reporter

Mental health advocates think the province should steer clear of asking drivers about their psychiatric history.

"It’s all very strange," Carol Tooton, executive director of the Nova Scotia division of the Canadian Mental Health Association, said in an interview Tuesday. "It’s not the appropriate approach.

"I can’t think of any reason why they’d want to go this route."

Service Nova Scotia now requires people renewing their licences to indicate on an application form if they’ve had a "psychiatric or psychological condition."

People who indicate yes — even if it was something such as a bout of depression — are asked to provide more specific details and then must have a doctor complete a medical, sharing what’s usually confidential information with the government.

"The contents of the medical report will be reviewed by department staff and may be referred to a committee of medical specialists who make recommendations on clients’ medical fitness to safely drive," the province has advised affected people in writing.

The application form also asks those renewing their licences if they have had lung, heart, eye or neurological diseases, a stroke or dementia.

Doctors sometimes charge a fee for the medical and failure to comply with the request could result in drivers losing their licences.

Ms. Tooton wondered why the province would require such sensitive medical information that has little to do with somebody’s ability to operate a vehicle.

"I’ve never heard of this before. It certainly doesn’t help to eliminate the stigma around someone who may have a mental illness.
To read the entire article, click here.

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