health care

Prescription Privacy

DEA vs. ACLU

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You have "no constitutionally protected privacy interest" in your prescription records, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In an August brief before an Oregon U.S. District Court, the federal agency defended its practice of obtaining personal medical information without a warrant.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is representing four patients and a doctor who object to the DEA's acquisition of their records via Oregon's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, a public health database aimed at helping doctors detect and avoid drug abuse and overdoses. The plaintiffs argue that the DEA should not be allowed unfettered access to confidential medical information, such as prescriptions for anxiety meds and sex-change hormones.

In a September blog post about the case, ACLU staff attorney Nathan Wessler argued that the "third party doctrine"-which holds that citizens relinquish privacy rights when they give information to a company or other entity-ought not apply in this case. "Telling your doctor that you have an anxiety disorder or HIV," Wessler wrote, "is nothing like letting the power company read your electricity meter. "

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