Thursday, October 07, 2004

In Defense of Rush Limbaugh

As a proud liberal Democrat Rush Limbaugh has been the bane of my political existence for years. I find his ideology abhorrent on a number of different levels. He has made it his life’s goal to denigrate, belittle, and dismiss all that is even slightly liberal or progressive ideologically speaking. For those on the left Limbaugh has been the human personification of the anti-Christ. So it pains me to no end to defend him in any way. But defend him I must.

As we all know Rush Limbaugh has had a recent and very public battle with substance abuse. By his own admittance Limbaugh was heavily addicted to some of the most potent pharmaceutical pain killers known to medical science. At times Limbaugh was swallowing over sixty pills a day. The most popular political talk show host in America had to take a three month sabbatical from his radio gig in order to admit himself into a drug rehabilitation program.

Now Limbaugh is under investigation for illegally procuring massive quantities of prescription pain killers. As part of the investigation the Florida state attorney’s office seized Limbaugh’s medical records in order to prove that the conservative pundit went doctor shopping to get his hands on 1800 pain killers over a seven month period. This so-called doctor shopping is a felony under Florida law. Limbaugh and his famous attorney Roy Black appealed the seizure to Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals but lost. The Court issued an opinion on Wednesday, October 6 that stated that the State Attorney’s office acted properly.

The United States Constitution protects a person’s right to privacy via the Fourteenth Amendment and protects against unlawful search & seizure in the Fourth Amendment. In addition, the Florida state Constitution has even more stringent privacy protections and the Florida legislature has made the protection of medical records nearly sacrosanct.

The doctor/patient relationship has long been held sacred. In order to have a free exchange of information it has long been held that protecting the confidentiality of doctor and patient communications and records is vital. This free exchange is essential if doctors are to give quality care and patients should have an expectation that their records will be held in strictest confidence. If patients feel that their records are open for perusal they simply will not divulge essential and private information necessary for quality and comprehensive medical care. If there is no expectation of absolute privacy there will be a chilling effect on information exchanged between doctor & patient. This is a basic tenet of constitutional law.

According to the Constitution in order to have the ability to examine confidential medical information one must obtain a subpoena thus giving both the doctor and patient notice that the records in question will be released. Since such records often contain highly sensitive information there must be a compelling reason to view such. The Florida State Attorneys did not obtain a subpoena thus violating Florida law. In what can only be described as a marriage of strange bedfellows the ACLU is now supporting Limbaugh in his effort to have his medical records sealed. This unholy alliance is sure to fight this issue all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

Just because I vehemently disagree with 95% of what comes out of Rush Limbaugh’s mouth doesn’t mean I don’t feel he’s entitled to having his private life protected. Limbaugh’s records should be held in confidence. Doing less would violate his fundamental right to privacy as recognized by the 14th Amendment and his freedom from unlawful search & seizure as delineated in the 4th Amendment. If Limbaugh and his privacy are not respected the government will come after you and I…GUARANTEED.