The use of medical records of individuals for law and order enforcement has been on the rise in the past few decades. Recently, a Consumer Policy Institute report has shed light on an unethical practice across many pharmacies in America that poses a serious risk to privacy and safety. According to this report, pharmacies are sharing medical data with the police without any formal warrant.
The data shared includes customer names and medical prescriptions associated with them, as well as other sensitive information such as, allergies, medical conditions and insurance details. The implications are tributary, as it can have drastic impact on the right to privacy and can be used to blackmail or abuse the person in question.
The source states that law enforcement personnel can get access to such data without the need of a formal search warrant. All it requires is a simple letter from the police department that would provide access to such sensitive data without following the procedure that is usually mandated in cases of collecting evidence.
The inquiry reaches some worrying conclusions as the freedom of healthcare can be easily compromised by such practices. This has grave implications for the safety of the individual, and could be used for any number of malicious purposes.
The findings point to a disturbing lack of oversight, regulation and procedure when it comes to access to such sensitive medical information by law enforcement agencies. In addition, there is a lack of transparency in the practice as the report finds few to no records or information about the extent of this data sharing.
As such practices go against the basic principles of privacy and civil rights, it is important to consider the security issues that arise from these revelations. It is paramount that governments, both federal and local, take immediate steps to monitor and regulate such practices.
As healthcare is a basic need of every individual, it is essential that pharmacists and health professionals abide by the highest ethical standards when collecting and sharing medical data. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that they do so, and that nothing stands in the way of a person’s right to access and maintain confidential health information.