The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons Charges Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office with Violating the Law in the Rush Limbaugh Case
MIAMI – February 20, 2004 – The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s seizure of Rush Limbaugh’s entire medical files using search warrants was a violation of state law and an effort at “Big Brother scrutiny” that will chill doctor-patient relations for all Floridians, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons said in a brief filed today in Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal.
“The intervention of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons as a friend of the court on Mr. Limbaugh’s behalf is another clear indication that much is at stake for every Floridian in the outcome of this case,” said Roy Black, Mr. Limbaugh’s attorney. “The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons brief correctly notes that ‘It is not a crime for a patient to be in pain and repeatedly seek relief, and doctors should not be turned against patients they tried to help.’”
In addition to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Florida Pain Initiative and the National Foundation for the Treatment of Pain have filed briefs with the Appeals Court on Mr. Limbaugh’s behalf.
No charges have been filed against Mr. Limbaugh. Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer seized the records from four of his doctors in December under authority of search warrants. The files are now being held under seal after the Appeals Court ordered prosecutors to surrender them to a lower court.
Mr. Black has argued that the Florida Constitution and state law require an application for subpoena, notification of the patient and an opportunity to oppose the action in a court hearing before the state can gain access to medical files.
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons brief supports Mr. Black’s argument, adding that the search warrant seizure, if allowed to stand, will have intimidating affect on Florida doctors.
“Doctors will reasonably fear ‘Big Brother’ scrutiny of what they include or omit from the medical charts of patients. To avoid professional risk, doctors will further refuse to treat pain patients adequately,” stated the brief filed by Association of American Physicians and Surgeons General Counsel Andrew Schlafly.
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons emphasized that visits to multiple doctors and the receipt of multiple prescriptions for pain is typical of patients seeking treatment for chronic, unrelenting pain.
“Visiting several physicians for pain relief should not open a patient’s records to virtually unlimited access by the State,” Mr. Schlafly argued. “The State violated the law here. Its search warrants should be quashed and their fruits excluded as a result.”