Monday, November 29, 2004

Freedom Hijacked - Again

Freedom Hijacked - Again

In their never ending campaign to make the constitution irrelevant, our government is putting yet another nail in the coffin of our freedom, with almost no mention in the press. Using the dubious procedure of a voice vote in a lame duck session - which gives every single legislator the ability to deny his vote, if and when the voters turn against this benighted law - the House has already passed, and the Senate is about to pass, the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Act, or NASPER, H.R. 3015.

This act will give to the government easy access to the medical records of any citizen who takes any controlled substance. While pain medications are the stated target of this new law, antidepressant and other drugs used in the treatment of mental distress and illness, not to mention medically authorized marijuana, are all included. The act provides that any doctor prescribing, and any provider dispensing any of these medicines must report, within one week, the name, address, and telephone number of the patient receiving these substances. Normal constitutionally mandated controls on search and seizure are thus not applicable. No judge need issue a warrant, nor must any law enforcement person show probable cause, not even reasonable suspicion, that any law has been violated. Mere curiosity on the part of law enforcement would appear to be allowed, under the language of the statute.
(2) any local, State, or Federal law enforcement, narcotics control, licensure, disciplinary, or program authority, who certifies, under the procedures determined by the State, that the requested information is related to an individual investigation or proceeding involving the unlawful diversion or misuse of a schedule II, III, or IV substance, and such information will further the purpose of the investigation or assist in the proceeding;

(3) any agent of the Department of Health and Human Services, a State medicaid program, a State health department, or the Drug Enforcement Administration who certifies that the requested information is necessary for research to be conducted by such department, program, or administration, respectively, and the intended purpose of the research is related to a function committed to such department, program, or administration by law that is not investigative in nature
This is nothing more than an outrageous continuation on the Justice department's War on Citizens in Pain and the Doctors Who Treat Them. Sneaking it in under the conditions of a voice vote in a lame duck session shows what law enforcement usually refers to as "awareness of guilt." Just as O.J. or Peterson running for the border shows that they know that they are guilty, legislators sneaking this vote in anonymously shows that they are unwilling to put their names to it. Oh, quite a few will be proud to tell their constituencies that they voted for this monstrous invasion - not of privacy, but of a patient in pain's very ability to get the medication that he or she needs to survive. But, the rest of our brave Congressmen will be able to deny that they were even in the House when the vote took place. And, the Senate has decided to use the very same sleazy trick when the vote comes up in the next month or so. Don't just take my word for it, ask a doctor:
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a physician, calls NASPER, a.k.a. HR 3015, "yet another unjustifiable attempt by the federal government to use the war on drugs as an excuse for invading the privacy and liberties of the American people and for expanding the federal government's disastrous micromanagement of medical care." He argues that the bill violates the Fourth Amendment, since it "authorizes the use and disclosure of identifiable health information for law enforcement purposes without the patient's knowledge or consent, without probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and without obtaining a search warrant."
This bill is aimed at creating a national system in which the government is constantly looking over doctors' shoulders as they write prescriptions, looking for signs of nonmedical use. Such a system would magnify the chilling effect that the government's second-guessing has on pain treatment while sacrificing patient privacy for the sake of the war on drugs.

As a chronic pain patient myself, I can attest to the difficulty of even finding a physician willing to prescribe these substances. Getting the proper dosage of them is impossible, at least for me. My doctor is candid with me in discussing her concerns, and she is quite clear that, if not for the DEA looking over her shoulder, she would prescribe the proper dose. Her problem is that federal agants, who have absolutely no medical training, make decisions on the correctness of her treatment of her chronic pain patients, and her license, even her very freedom is constantly on the line. Thank God that my MRI clearly shows my condition. Many pain patients have pain that does not show up on the diagnostic film, and therefore get no medication at all. Some, very few, doctors are willing to prescribe for these patients, and quite a few have landed in prison for prescribing more Percocets than a DEA agent and an Assistant U.S. Attorney believes to be the correct amount. So I make do, and would surely be in a bad way if I could not get my disease medicated. In fact, untreated and undertreated chronic pain is one of the leading causes of suicide.

Making this information so easily available will absolutely have a chilling affect on the prescribing activities of most doctors. If it passes, look for the immediate effect of dentists prescribing only two days worth of painkillers, rather than the three or four that is usual, in order to get under the reporting requirements. If you are one who believes that the War on (some) Drugs makes this law a reasonable intrusion into our privacy, may God have mercy on you if you ever develop chronic pain. If you suffer from depression and are medicated for it, prepare for this information about you to become available to prospective employers and nosy neighbors. If you are taking medically authorized marijuana, expect the D.A.R.E. officer to reveal this to your kids. Little by little, our constitution is being chipped away. Those of you who fail to respond when someone else's freedom is taken away, will probably scream the loudest when "they" come for one of your own.