Lewis v. Superior Court

State medical board, who was investigating a doctor for over-prescription of addictive drugs, did not violate privacy rights of doctor’s patients by obtaining database information on drugs which pharmacies had dispensed to them.  The California Medical Board did not violate patients’ right to privacy under Cal. Const., art. I, sec. 1, by obtaining from a state-run computer database information on the drugs pharmacies had dispensed to them and later by obtaining five patients’ full prescription histories.  While the patients have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that information, the Medical Board had a strong state interest in accessing the information to protect patients against incompetent doctors and over-prescription of addictive drugs.  Since the information did not concern the patients’ fundamental autonomy, the Medical Board did not have to show that the state interests were “compelling.”  The doctor whom the Medical Board was investigating did not show that there was any other means by which the Medical Board could obtain the information as expeditiously and thus serve the state’s interests while not infringing the patients’ privacy.

California Supreme Court (Liu, J.; Liu & Kruger, JJ., concurring); July 17, 2017; 2017 WL 3014285

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