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Medicine Privacy Politics

DEA Argues Oregonians Have No Protected Privacy Interest In Prescription Records 455

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the we-see-you're-taking-terrorism-pills dept.
schwit1 writes "Like emails and documents stored in the cloud, your prescription medical records may have a tenuous right to privacy. In response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) over the privacy of certain medical records, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is arguing (ACLU response) that citizens whose medical records are handed over to a pharmacy — or any other third-party — have 'no expectation of privacy' for that information." Oregon mandates that pharmacies report information on people receiving certain drugs to a centralized database (ostensibly to "...help people work with their health care providers and pharmacists to know what medications are best for them."). State law does allow law enforcement to access the records, but only with a warrant. The DEA, however, thinks that, because the program is public, a citizen is knowingly disclosing that information to a third party thus losing all of their privacy rights (since you can always just opt out of receiving medical care) thanks to the Controlled Substances Act. The ACLU and medical professionals (PDF) don't think there's anything voluntary about receiving medical treatment, and that medical ethics override other concerns.
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DEA Argues Oregonians Have No Protected Privacy Interest In Prescription Records

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:12AM (#44947743)

    You've lost sight of your own Constitution and what you stand for.

    Now you're a bunch of witless idiots cowering in the dark.

    • by wizkid (13692) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:34AM (#44948001) Homepage

      You've lost sight of your own Constitution and what you stand for.

      The DEA lost sight of the oath they took a long time ago.

      Now you're a bunch of witless idiots cowering in the dark.

      Can't go along with that. I think corrupt morons is closer. Egotistical Assholes might also fit the bill.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I think if DEA were serious about their oath it would have dissolved long time ago.

        I think if DEA were serious about use of common sense at daily work they would have dissolved long time ago.

      • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:48AM (#44948209)

        The moment they started.
        It took a constitutional amendment to ban alcohol. Where is the one that bans any other drugs or enables the DEA?

        • by coinreturn (617535) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @11:33AM (#44948795)
          Although it took one, it can be argued that it may not have required a constitutional amendment to ban alcohol. The constitution sets up a framework for passing laws, which can be used to outlaw substances. Absent a constitutional challenge to a law, the law remains.
        • by Fjandr (66656)

          They've decided the taxing authority allows them to do anything and everything now. You can buy and sell illegal drugs with a tax stamp, they just won't sell you a tax stamp. Bang, banned product. Don't want to buy health insurance? We'll tax you if you don't. It's small now, but if that authority holds they can tax you at any rate they want. Don't buy product X? Bang, we're adding a tax penalty of 100% of your income. Better yet, 1000%. Now you either don't work or you're an indentured servant since taxes

      • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @12:27PM (#44949387) Journal

        Now you're a bunch of witless idiots cowering in the dark.

        Can't go along with that. I think corrupt morons is closer. Egotistical Assholes might also fit the bill.

        How about vicious and cruel thugs? Dangerous madmen? Sick, twisted fucks? Reprehensible monsters?

        I don't think there's invective too severe for the DEA. They'd rather see ill people waste away to their deaths in prison than get comfort from a medication they disapprove of. That's just plain evil.

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @11:01AM (#44948393)
      No, moron, we're not all supportive of the DEA. The tide is rapidly turning against the drug war (rapid compared to how long it's been going on, not rapid compared to "hey, how about we legalize drugs right now, all opposed? You're idiots and don't get to vote"). And it's not the arguments that they publicly make that I'm concerned about. That's just PR. They can argue "Xenu wants information on your medical history to be free!" for all I care.

      Furthermore, this probably isn't related to our paranoia. Oregon has legalized medical marijuana. I'm going to assume this isn't about fighting terrorism so much as it is relating to the government wanting to know who is taking medical marijuana so they can make more arrests and send more "criminals" to perform slave labor for their campaign donors in the private prison industry.

      That said, thank you for the reminder that I need to donate again to the EFF and ACLU.
    • by careysub (976506) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @12:10PM (#44949167)

      A parallel between the East German Stasi and the DEA comes to mind. Both felt you had no right to privacy, and that they had unlimited surveillance and enforcement powers. And the mission-statement for both organizations seemed to be to perpetuate their own power. as an end in itself.

    • by Eggplant62 (120514) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @01:02PM (#44949855)

      I guess HIPAA just doesn't fucking matter. I work with medical records daily. If I fuck up I'm liable for $10k per incident. Fuck these guys.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:15AM (#44947781)

    crack (they're on it, apparently)

    • by whoever57 (658626) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @11:19AM (#44948607) Journal

      If the DEA wins, then surely Oregon's database (PDMP) is in violation of HIPAA, which means the database should be shut down, which means that there would no longer be any data for the DEA to collect.

      So, great work DEA. Shut down a useful database.

      • by chihowa (366380)

        Is it a useful database? The database doesn't appear to have many uses beyond the prohibition-oriented ones. The claimed uses don't necessitate a state run database.

        It seems like law enforcement involvement was the whole point of it. Maybe Oregon just didn't want to share with the DEA.

    • by Jeff Flanagan (2981883) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @12:35PM (#44949515)
      Marijuana has a long history of causing psychosis in authoritarians that don't use it. Unlike many psychoactive drugs, this one doesn't mess up the user's mind, but does mess up the minds of fearful people who have never tried it.
  • by killfixx (148785) * on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:15AM (#44947783) Journal

    Of these three-letter-agencies twisting the law to fit their needs. And, without any of the necessary oversight that we were promised.

    So, I guess my question is, are things going to get better because we have a more aggressive flashlight for exposing these secret interpretations of our law, or, will this just keep getting worse until something significantly worse happens? Something like, Egypt, Syria, etc...

    Revolutions are nothing new... I just wish they weren't so damned violent and terrifying.

    • by SirGarlon (845873)

      Revolutions are not always violent. "Revolution" just means "turning around" -- some kind of major reversal of the social order. I would say the Civil Rights movement in the US was a revolution. Nelson Mandela's election in South Africa was a revolution. (OK, there was violence in both cases, but the violence was mostly aimed at *suppressing* those revolutions, and it failed.)

      The US is a long, long way from needing actual bloodshed to improve its society. A few hundred thousand people marching in the street

      • by lister king of smeg (2481612) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:43AM (#44948131)

        Revolutions are not always violent. "Revolution" just means "turning around" -- some kind of major reversal of the social order. I would say the Civil Rights movement in the US was a revolution. Nelson Mandela's election in South Africa was a revolution. (OK, there was violence in both cases, but the violence was mostly aimed at *suppressing* those revolutions, and it failed.)

        The US is a long, long way from needing actual bloodshed to improve its society. A few hundred thousand people marching in the streets would be plenty effective.

        if lots of people marching was all that was required then both the tea party and occupy would have sucseeded at something niether has.

      • by sjames (1099) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:48AM (#44948211) Homepage

        There was plenty of violence and even assassinations in those fights. More recently, OWS protesters were tear gassed, maced, and beaten with clubs.

      • by Bacon Bits (926911) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:53AM (#44948303)

        I would say the Civil Rights movement in the US was a revolution.

        I find it immensely depressing that the same generation that fought so hard and paid such a dear price for civil rights when they were young was the exact same generation to sell them back so cheaply when they were old.

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @11:14AM (#44948559) Homepage

      All courtesy of the PATRIOT act.

      Repeal that and all the crap that has been going on falls like a deck of cards.

      Sadly not one of the spineless scumbags in washington dares to even talk of repealing it.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      Revolutions are nothing new... I just wish they weren't so damned violent and terrifying.

      They don't have to be nor always are. We just remember the terrifying ones. A revolution can be as simple as the prime minister's medic giving him the wrong medicine, a senator being stabbed in the kidney with a small icepick, or an official car just turning the wrong corner into a bottleneck from which one less passenger gets out.

      The aspect of the revolution isn't important, only the strength and extension of the idea. If half the population of a country wants someone dead, that person is dead. The law is

  • by Anonymous Coward

    DEA, meet HIPAA and HITECH.

    • by SemperUbi (673908) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:22AM (#44947859)
      Seriously! We MD's and other hospital staff all have to get mandatory patient privacy and security training every year. Some people at the DEA need to do this too because they are WAY out of line.
      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:33AM (#44947987) Homepage

        The DEA jumped the shark a while back. If marijuana is a Schedule I drug (no accepted medical use, high probability of harm) and Marinol (concentrated, synthetic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana) is a Schedule III (Like low dose hydrocodone - Vicodin) then something's pretty wacky.

        They have no interest in doing anything but increasing their fiefdom. Which is a shame. There is a complex interplay between useful and dangerous drugs and uncontrolled drug abuse is dangerous (witness the bath salts issue). But no one wants to work the with the DEA since administratively they're still mired in the Reefer Madness [wikipedia.org] mindset.

        The executive branch, ie. Obama, needs to slap on some testosterone patches (a Schedule III drug) and knock some upper level bureaucrats silly. There really is no possible law enforcement reason for this. If you are looking for the few doctors that really are the bad apples, the pill mill guys, then all you need to do is track the docs prescription volumes. Start looking at the folks, say two standard deviations from the mean. That should give you enough homework. You don't need to drill down to the individual patient level - that's not where the public health issue is.

        • by Hatta (162192)

          Jumped the shark presumes they had a legitimate purpose at some point. The DEA is evil, it has always been evil, and has never had any purpose other than oppression.

        • by TheCarp (96830)

          Dude, the DEA was founded on a shark jump.

          It all came out of alcohol prohibition and the FBN having precious little bit of jack shit to do after it ended. So they started drumming up support for giving themselves more work, and...it worked. The path to making marijiana illegal was a farce so comical that nobody would believe it were it fiction.

          You have Harry Anslinger, a name everyone should read up on.... first he tells congress marijiana makes people violent and how just one joint could make a person kill

    • by MiniMike (234881)

      I wonder how long it will be before armed 'security' teams from DEA and DHHS get in a firefight over medical records.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Exactly. The fact that patents may know about HIPAA is sufficient grounds to believe they do have an expectation of privacy as well as a legal right to it..

  • The DEA has become the enemy of the American people and needs to be disbanded, or at least have it's house cleaned.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:31AM (#44947955) Journal

      The DEA has become the enemy of the American people and needs to be disbanded, or at least have it's house cleaned.

      Arguably, it would be more amusing to apply genetic engineering techniques to construct a virus that splices in cannaboid synthesis mechanisms when it infects and organism. Then release it into their ventilation system.

      An entire department full of psychoactive DEA agents whose bodies synthesize Schedule I controlled substances would be the ultimate in zany stoner comedy.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Sounds like a great way to reign in the deficit while we're at it.

  • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:20AM (#44947837) Homepage

    I'm puzzled; I'd think that this was covered by the Medical Records Privacy laws.

    Personal information you give to your doctor is shared with insurance companies, pharmacies, researchers, and employers based on specific regulations.

    http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/index.html [hhs.gov]
    https://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs8-med.htm [privacyrights.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cdrudge (68377)

      HIPAA specifically permits law enforcement to request PHI through a variety of means [hhs.gov]. A court order is probably the fool proof way to get it. Or they can just ask for it and say that it's for a specific investigation in a written letter...because no one would ever lie on a written letter. Or just claim that it's for national security. You don't want the terrorists to win do you? Will someone think of the children!?!?

    • by nbauman (624611) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @11:23AM (#44948679) Homepage Journal

      That deceitful, misleading hhs.gov page doesn't tell you that there are many exceptions to HIPAA, including law enforcement access, which is buried within links that are difficult to get to:

      Covered entities may disclose protected health information to law enforcement officials for law enforcement purposes as required by law (including court orders, court-ordered warrants, subpoenas) and administrative requests; or to identify or locate a suspect, fugitive, material witness, or missing person. http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/summary/index.html [hhs.gov] Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule (emphasis added)

      What that means is that a cop can go into a hospital, flash his badge, and copy all your medical records if he feels like it, without violating HIPAA. Individual hospitals may have different policies, but nothing in HIPAA prevents that.

      There are also no penalties under HIPAA for releasing private health information to third parties like that. All those big fines that HHS is touting are for structural problems with their databases, not for improperly releasing information about specific individuals.

  • It's just another unconstitutional agency full of thugs. Problem solved.
  • by astapleton (324242) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:26AM (#44947895) Homepage Journal

    Hmmm, let's see...if I'm being treated for a condition, any condition not involving an illegal act, and someone walks into my doctor's office and says "Give me Example Guy's current medical records", the first words out of my doctor's mouth will be "Show me your warrant or get out of my office."

    So if the doctor prescribes medication to treat my medical condition, that comes under doctor-patient confidentiality. The ONLY people I have to share that information with are the pharmacy tech and pharmacy manager who do not share that information with anyone else outside that doctor's office.

    So why do authority and police organizations think it's okay to grab my records at a whim because I'm taking, say, Ritalin to treat severe ADHD? They have no business or right to be pawing through peoples' records looking for criminals unless they serve a warrant to every physician involved. There is no condition under which legally prescribed medication falls outside of those parameters unless the patient himself gives said organization written authorization gained in a legal manner to search their own records.

    So take your 'public disclosure' bull and stick it up your backside along with badge, Mr. Policeman. The rules apply to EVERYONE, not just the people who don't own their very own cheap tin badges.

    • by tiberus (258517) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:37AM (#44948041)

      Hmmm, so if my records are made available to a third party, I lose my right to privacy . . .

      Well, my medical insurance requires access to my records or at least to medical information in order to process claims for coverage, including condition, diagnosis, tests, medication, etc., etc. etc.

      So by logical extension, the medical records of everyone are public?!?

  • by wilson_c (322811) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:27AM (#44947911)

    Why would the DEA waste their time and money on this? HIPAA thoroughly establishes prescription records as being contained within the scope of medical privacy.

    • by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:38AM (#44948051) Homepage Journal
      Because they're a government agency and government agencies waste time and money. The DEA in particular has been nothing but a waste of time and money since its inception, the functional equivalent of pouring gasoline on trillions of taxpayer dollars and burning them. Formed on the pretext that marijuana is "bad" for you with no studies done on the subject, their sole purpose has been to perpetuate the myth that their existence makes the country a better place. All it has, in fact, brought is is a slow erosion of the Constitution, the indentured servitude of a generation of young, mostly-black youth and a no apparent impact on the drug use in the country. If they were disbanded today, no one would notice a thing. They know they need to keep distracting us and flailing their arms about anything they can come up with, so that lawmakers under the influence of hysteria increase their budget next year.

      Ask a silly question...

    • by hsmith (818216)
      All they have to do is put a Business Associate Agreement in place and they satisfy HIPAA.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:27AM (#44947919) Journal
    If the DEA argues that medical care is purely voluntary, rather than necessary, and thus 'choosing' it constitutes consent, would it be entirely ethical for medical professionals to refuse 'elective procedures' to all DEA functionaries? After all, the patient himself says that the procedure is totally voluntary, so I don't see why they have any professional or ethical obligation to assist with it, not when they could be treating people with actually urgent problems....
  • Isn't this a direct violation of HIPAA?

  • by stewsters (1406737) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:36AM (#44948017)
    Step 1: Install license plate reader in cop cars.

    Step 2: Get a database of everyone to their plates from the DMV

    Step 3: Get a list of all drugs that you should not drive if you are on.

    Step 4: Get a database of what drugs people are on.

    Step 5: for every plate you see, check if they can be driving

    Step 6: pull over anyone who fits the profile. If their picture matches,

    Step 7: Issue tickets and jail time

    Step 8: profit!
    • Profit for the companies who supply the equipment and run the prisons. Loss for the taxpayers.

  • by Tempest_2084 (605915) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:37AM (#44948043)
    Am I the only one who read that title as "DEA Argues ORANGUTANS Have No Protected Privacy Interest In Prescription Records"? I was genuinely interested then thoroughly disappointed.
  • by cervesaebraciator (2352888) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:39AM (#44948069)

    [C]itizens whose [...] records are handed over to a [lawyer] — or any other third-party — have 'no expectation of privacy' for that information.

    Or perhaps:

    [C]itizens whose [thoughts] are [recorded by] a [psychologist] — or any other third-party — have 'no expectation of privacy' for that information.

    And if we can work our way around the Fourth and Fifth amendments, let's have at the First as well.

    [C]itizens whose [confessions] are [given] to a [priest] — or any other third-party — have 'no expectation of privacy' for that information.

    This is foolish and hopefully the laws will overturn it. If I could support only two bills this year, one would be a bill that would henceforth hold accountable corporate heads who engage in the sort of shenanigans that led to the recession. It would require jail-time. But if I could only support one bill, it would require jail-time for the heads of alphabet soup agencies whose policy decisions are found to violate the Constitution. A judge might yet throw this out, but if the people who make such decisions do not suffer they'll just try again in a different way. If he wishes to sit on the throne, let Damocles sit under the sword.

  • HPAA, from what I've seen, is taken pretty seriously. And the rules about what you can and can't disclose because of it are pretty strong. But how does this not flagrantly violate the protections it's supposed to offer? I'm not saying HPAA is perfect or implemented perfectly, but if you know what someone is taking, you know far more about them than if they simply see a doctor.

    Seeing a general physician could mean you've got the flu, an infected cut, a torn muscle, or be the first step towards a cancer diagn

  • HIPPA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MrKaos (858439) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @10:41AM (#44948097) Journal
    Co-incidentally, I was doing training on this today. From what I learned this the point of the legislation in HIPPA. The act (and the amendments) concerns the confidential transit of private medical information and the correct handling and destruction of it. Of course they need a warrant otherwise it's a violation, liable to some pretty big fines. That might even affect the admissibility of the evidence to a court because it's illegally obtained.

    2c

  • The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against ... ...and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized

    How is this ambiguous?

  • Good morning, Anonymous.

    In an ongoing court case, the US Drug Enforcement Agency has argued that citizens have no "expectation of privacy" for any medical records that are ever provided to any third party.

    You mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take them at their word. Find the medical records of as many of the following people as possible: members of the DEA, attorneys for the DEA in this case, and any judge at any level of the US judiciary who has ever ruled against citizens' privacy. Publish s

  • Defund the DEA. We would literally save $billions on the actual DEA budget, and there would be knock-on effects in not having to turn cities into war zones combating something that's a public health problem. Take half the money we spend on DEA, and earmark it for addiction treatment under Obamacare. Drug problem solved (to the extent that it can be solved). DEA Agents? Don't worry. There are food stamps and Obamacare for you. We'll treat you well, and help you to find a new productive career; but if

  • (Actualy, I think that everyone at the DEA needs to be let go, but that is a different political argument.)

    This argument is so brain-dead and politically DOA that you have to wonder if something is not being mis-represented. However, if it is as the ACLU (generally a reliable source) relates, whoever is heading the DEA legal team is both dangerous and incompetent, and needs to go.

  • by chowdahhead (1618447) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @04:54PM (#44952935)
    I didn't read the whole article, but it seems to be a controlled substance prescription database like the one we have in CT--I think we were one of the first states to do this. Prescribers and pharmacists are required to enroll, and information has to be reported to the State, by state law. That information is used to identify prescription drug abuse. We use it fairly regularly in the hospital I practice at when overdose patients arrive, or patients enrolled in a chemical dependency program . This doesn't violate HIPAA because the Act allows disclosure of information to a health oversight agency for oversight activities authorized by law.

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