CA Supreme Court Skeptical of Barring Medical Board from Utilizing Database Created to Combat Dangerous Doctors

In a hearing before the California Supreme Court, Justices appeared unconvinced that the state Medical Board should be barred from consulting the state’s prescription drug database in order to discipline drug-dealing and over-prescribing doctors.
At issue is the unusual claim that doctors can assert their patients’ privacy rights in order to insulate themselves from disciplinary procedures which are designed to protect patients from substandard care.
During oral argument, Justices pushed back on the contention by attorney Henry R. Fenton (representing Dr. Alwin Lewis, M.D.) that the Medical Board is barred by both article I of the California Constitution and the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution from receiving such lawfully collected information without a warrant or subpoena. Neither the state nor federal Constitution impose such a requirement.
If Lewis prevails, doctors throughout California could avoid professional discipline by suppressing evidence derived from California’s Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES). Neither Lewis, nor his attorneys, dispute the claim that the Department of Justice can lawfully collect records of controlled substances that are dispensed to patients. Yet rather than protecting patients from dangerous doctors, Lewis and his attorneys argue that the CURES database is primarily designed to protect and assist doctors in dealing with their patients. Fenton additionally claimed that instead of patients being put in danger by bad doctors, the “real” danger within the CURES system comes from government entities that can threaten doctors with disciplinary actions.
In a somewhat comic turn, Fenton acknowledged that during the dispute with the Medical Board, his client (Dr. Lewis) told three Board members that they were overweight. This, according to Fenton, was the inciting event that led the Medical Board to act in a retaliatory manner against Dr. Lewis.
As today’s oral arguments made clear, however, there is nothing amusing about doctors’ attempts to prevent oversight via the very same database that was created to weed out drug-dealing and over-prescribing physicians. 
For the previous post on this issue see here:

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