Precious Privacy

What a human tendency it is to deny that we have anything “to hide!”  Does this mere sentence cause your self-defensive hairs to rise? It should, because we all have something precious to “hide,” something we take for granted that is the envy of millions around the world.

We all have our privacy to hide.

It concerns me that that with every new, sweeping loss of our privacy no one seems to bat an eye. Oh we might complain a little, or make jokes about it; but, we don’t seem to notice that little by little our precious privacy is being eroded. We have been trained to point to the attacks of 9/11/2001 and declare that if there had been better surveillance, it would not have happened.  “We can’t let it happen again,” is exclaimed.

“In the name of National Security” has become a mantra. Please, do me a favor: find someone who lived in the Soviet Union or Cuba and ask them about National Security.

It concerns me that when we see a vehicle pulled over we make assumptions. They must have been speeding, we think.  When I talk to patients who share their stories of being pulled over and having their medications with them, I cringe.  Then, I print off a copy of KrisAnne Hall’s Fourth Amendment handout, which explains the right to privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.

There are no local, state or federal laws that may supersede the Fourth Amendment! If they do so, they are illegal. A search warrant is required—period.  It will not be difficult to get a search warrant if there is probable cause.  But, I will leave the technical legalities to another day.

My biggest concern is the general lackadaisical attitude toward the privacy of medical records. First, to whom do your medical records belong? By right they should belong to you.

But, I encourage you to try to get a copy of your full records. Go ahead. It will probably cost you, and you’ll have no guarantee what you get includes ALL your records. By requesting a COPY of your records, you are not purging your records, either. You may be told that you have access to your records electronically, but the keeper of the records is careful to control what part of your records you may access. However, your insurance company is not so bridled; they may have full access, and do not require your written permission! Why? Because, you signed a paper signing away all your rights to privacy when it comes to your medical records! Your insurance company, the federal government, other physicians and their office personnel—basically, anyone with whom the record-keeper does business—have access to your records, as long as they sign a business associate contract.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) really has nothing to do with your privacy, though that is all anyone (including “healthcare providers”) thinks it maintains. The Department of Health and Human Services  (HHS) wants you to think that’s what HIPPA is all about as well. But realize, any law that allows the department of HHS to access your records without your knowledge is not a law about maintaining your privacy.

Did you know that you do NOT have to sign that you have received the privacy policy of the “healthcare” facility you utilize? Did you know you don’t have to answer any questions you don’t want to answer?  Did you know that HIPAA was the first step in a long line of “laws” designed to create an “interoperable nationwide health information infrastructure?”  (These are official words, not mine.)

Is there anything in that phrase—interoperable nationwide health information infrastructure—that sounds at all reassuring, that it is your privacy they are concerned about preserving? Am I the only one who immediately thinks of George Orwell’s 1984 when I merely read that phrase?

My friends, do you have any notion of what unholy behemoth we have unleashed? It doesn’t eat your soul, but it devours your medical privacy. Plus, with the re-definition of the practice of medicine to “healthcare,” your medical privacy extends to everything you ingest, breathe, wear and to which you expose yourself.  Then, because it is realized that in order to control your health, we have to control your personal habits—there you have the development of an interoperable nationwide health information infrastructure!

Yes, I can hear at least one “friend” cry, “The sky is falling!”

Oh yes my “friend”—it is.

If by sky you mean your freedom, and by falling you mean death.

I just utilized a “healthcare provider” last week.  It is someone with whom I have a real friendship, and this provider likes to have certain things in her medical records; so, I answered some things honestly.  However, there was a lot I wouldn’t answer. It is not pertinent to the issue with which I was seeking care.  I was honest and reported that I do not smoke, unless I am on fire, and that my source of caffeine use is coffee.  The amount? All of it, which is an exaggeration, but it told her what she needed to know.

And no, I did not sign the HIPAA release.

Privacy—an inherent right recognized by our Constitution—has been taken for granted for far too long.  We should never feel we have to give up some of our privacy in exchange for some security.  I am not willing to sacrifice my privacy on the altar of “security”, not for your security, nor for mine. Don’t fall for the “I have nothing to hide” trap. You have something not only to hide, but also to hoard and protect with your life: your right to privacy.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized. Fourth Amendment, U.S. Constitution.

~JPowell MD