Monday, March 08, 2004

Through the marvels of the legal process, our Republican overlords continue to refine the careful balancing act which is privacy rights in the modern era. For example, when government lawyers are trying to uphold the recently passed "partial-birth abortions ban",

... the Bush administration has set forth a new, more limited view of privacy rights as it tries to force hospitals and clinics to turn over records of hundreds and perhaps thousands of abortions.

Federal law "does not recognize a physician-patient privilege," the Justice Department said last month in court papers that sought abortion records from Planned Parenthood clinics in California, Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, New York City and Washington. Moreover, the department said in another abortion case, patients "no longer possess a reasonable expectation that their histories will remain completely confidential."

Health lawyers and privacy experts said that position reflected a significant shift after six years in which Bush and Clinton administration officials had promised to strengthen the confidentiality of medical records.

The government has to protect itself, you see, from false claims by soi-disant "medical experts" that the procedures have value -- by performing an independent audit of the entire medical profession, privacy of patients be damned. But doctors have rights, too. Like the ones in the great Republican state of Texas who are protecting themselves from patients who might be inclined to file a malpractice suit over little things like a missed tumor, or permanent crippling brain damage. Such miscreants there find themselves listed in a database as "predatory litigants", and denied basic medical care.

Of course, the good folks maintaining this database might find the prospect of a third-party investigation of their own basic fairness, well... unpleasant. So, to protect themselves from that, the new database copyright bill wending its way through Congress will allow them to sue the dickens out of anyone who tries it.

So, doctors have to give up their records, but only under the right circumstances. It's all about balance. The same kind of balance that is on full and open display when the Republicans in control of the Mississippi state legislature discuss coastal drilling rights:

Prior to the meeting, oil and gas industry lobbyists chided the media for "stirring things up down there" by reporting about the legislation. Lawmakers over the last two days have fielded calls and messages from constituents and environmentalists concerned about drilling, an issue that has waxed and waned for years on the Coast.

"We quite frankly have not had opposition from anybody but tree huggers and Democrats," said Marvin L. Oxley, an oil and gas geologist who's helping lobby for the law changes. "Don't use that, say, 'environmentalists.' By Democrats, I mean the blacks. Don't write blacks. Were you in the Judiciary hearing? That's most of who had questions about this."

You see, there are lots of people who come to the table, and their interests have to be balanced. Except for Democrats and blacks, and working-class victims of medical malpractice, who just don't have the cash to pony up.

And don't worry. They're trying to keep you from seeing any nasty TV ads that might make you think bad thoughts about the way they want to run the country. They think that would be unfair. And don't they just need a little love?

Credits: Texas malpractice link via Slashdot, database copyright link via BoingBoing, which also linked to the Republican anti-ad letters, Mississippi link via Michael Froomkin.


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