"We have four boxes with which to defend our freedom: the soap box, the ballot box, the jury box and the cartridge box." - Congressman Larry McDonald M.D.
(1 April, 1935 - 1 Sept., 1983)


God Save The Republic

10 September 2010

Information And Power

I don't know who deserves the credit, but someone coined these gems of wisdom, "information is power." When you consider the implication; having personal / pertinent information about another person can provide one a certain amount of influence over that other person's life. Of course it stands to reason that, the more information one has, the more influence one holds. The down side to this is, influence translates as power and, as found in these gems of wisdom, "power corrupts."

According to newsobserver.com, the North Carolina State Sheriff's Association wants it's members and other law enforcement officials to have access to state computer records identifying anyone with prescriptions for powerful painkiller and other controlled substances. Currently, doctors and pharmacists are the primary users of the computerized database.

Sheriffs made their pitch to a legislative health care committee looking for ways to confront prescription drug abuse. Local sheriffs said more people in their counties die from accidental overdoses than from homicides. For years, sheriffs have been trying to convince legislators that the prescription records should be open to them. "We can better go after those who are abusing the system," said Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter.

The state began collecting prescription information in 2007 to help doctors identify patients who go from doctor to doctor trying to obtain prescriptions for drugs they may not need, and to keep pharmacists from supplying patients with too many pills. Only about twenty percent of doctors in North Carolina have registered to use the system and only about ten percent of pharmacists.

N.C. Sheriff's Association lobbyist, Eddie Caldwell, said the level of access to the data is up for discussion. "There's a middle ground where the sheriffs and their personnel working on these drug abuse cases get the information they need in a way that protects the privacy of that information. No one wants every officer in the state to be able to log on and look it up."


I suppose some comfort can be found in Caldwell's words regarding no one wants every officer to have access to the database. I'd find more comfort had he said no one wants ANY officer to have access. And the only thing I take for pain is Ibuprofen. However, during the first six months of this year, thirty percent of state residents received at least one prescription for a controlled substance. Nearly 2.5 million people filled prescriptions for more than 375 million doses during that period.

It is also of interest to note that the ACLU opposed a similar bill in 2007, saying there were concerns over potential privacy issues.

In what certainly appears to be an all out sprint toward a full fledged police state, absolutely no good can come from police having access to this data. What useful purpose is served by holding information about millions when only a small percentage are guilty of criminal abuses? If the number of deaths to accidental overdoses is a determining factor, how many of those were caused by criminal abuse as compared to patient error, suicide or doctor error?

If allowed to happen, this will be the beginning of the end for any expectation of privacy between a patient and doctor. It will, though, be information providing even more power to those with a potential to use it against us.


1 comment:

  1. I saw this story and had a cold chill run up my spine. It is way, way over the line for a sheriff to be granted a list of everyone who has been prescribed certain drugs.

    If the argument is that some percentage of the people prescribed these drugs are a problem, just give them the phone book. They're all in that list.