State Senate Passes Prescription Surveillance Bill that Compromises Patient Privacy, Says ACLU of PA

May 06, 2014
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HARRISBURG (May 6) - Today, the Senate of Pennsylvania passed legislation to create a prescription surveillance program to monitor prescription records of the commonwealth’s residents. Housed at the state Department of Health, the program would be electronically accessible by doctors and pharmacists.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the legislation has been the access granted to prosecutors. Senate Bill 1180, introduced by Senator Pat Vance of Cumberland County, allows prosecutors to access the program with a court order based upon “reasonable suspicion.” This standard is a much lower bar than “probable cause,” which is the standard currently used to access this data in medical facilities, pharmacies, and a person’s home.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, an opponent of the legislation, responded to the bill’s passing. The following can be attributed to Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:

“The bill passed by the Senate today significantly weakens patient privacy. There is no avoiding that reality. The bill gives prosecutors easier access to a patient’s prescription record than they have under current law.

“There are few areas of our daily lives that are more personal and more private than our medical information. Our prescription medication records provide a window into our medical conditions. It is information that deserves heightened protection, not less protection.”

The following can be attributed to Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:

“This legislation has gone through a great deal of revision, much of it for the better. The primary sponsor listened to the civil liberties concerns and addressed many of them. Unfortunately, she and other senators were ultimately persuaded by prosecutors’ desires to easily get their hands on this highly personal data.

“Supporters claim that this database is all about public health. And yet prosecutors have been among the biggest cheerleaders for this bill. It is a continuation of the ‘prosecute and incarcerate’ mentality of the failed War on Drugs.”

Senate Bill 1180 now heads to the state House of Representatives for its consideration. The House has already passed its own version of the legislation, House Bill 1694.

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