Who do you think should have access to your private medical files? You? Of course. Your doctor? Definitely. Your pharmacist? Certainly. How about the Department of Health and Human Services or, better yet, the State Bureau of Investigation? Well, the reality is DHHS and the SBI already have access to the state pharmaceutical database which means those two state agencies already know what prescriptions you are filling and they can easily deduce what ails you.

That is probably chilling enough to any of the millions on North Carolinians filling prescriptions, but now Sheriffs across the state want access too. Never mind the chilling effect that such access may have on North Carolinians seeking medical treatment. Current law is bad enough, allowing local law enforcement across the state to access the pharmaceutical database without a warrant simply by asking the SBI for the information, but removing that intermediary step will allow sheriffs or their deputies to troll through the database without any probable cause or reasonable suspicion. Previous versions of the proposal did not even require that searches of the database be related to open investigations.

Of course, sheriffs argue that they want access to the database to help protect lives because people are overdosing on prescribed painkillers. Certainly, no one wants to see a person injured or killed because she or he overdosed on legally prescribed painkillers, but what drugs and dosages a person takes should be between the doctor and patient. Putting law enforcement in the middle of this won't help people understand the dangers of taking more than the prescribed dosage. In addition, the pharmaceutical database contains prescriptions for much more than painkillers; from Methadone for pain to Desoxyn for treating children with attention deficit disorders to Viagra for, well, you know, they're all in the database.

Once again, Supreme Court Justice Brandeis' 80 year old warning rings true, "The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding." Let's hope that this time the legislature heeds his words.