ACLU Says Proposed Peoria Policy to Require Fingerprinting At Pharmacies Violates Privacy Rights

Affiliate: ACLU of Arizona
January 28, 2011 12:00 am

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PHOENIX – Saying it will violate individual privacy rights and ignores the responsibilities of medical providers and pharmacists, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona today testified against a City of Peoria proposal to require fingerprinting at pharmacies when picking up certain prescriptions.

“The proposed ordinance ignores the rights and well-being of patients and the responsibilities of medical providers and pharmacists,” said ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Daniel Pochoda, who testified today before the Arizona State Pharmacy Board. “Public officials and agencies that promote or sign off on this proposal would be violating fundamental privacy protections in the United States and Arizona Constitutions.”

At issue is a proposed law that would require the taking of fingerprints in a blanket manner from anyone who picks up certain prescriptions at a pharmacy within city limits. Peoria City Attorney Steve Kemp said the proposal could provide better evidence to prosecute drug abuse cases, however, the proposed law is not limited to those persons who are suspected of fraud and the great majority of those involuntarily required to be printed will never be subjects of a criminal prosecution.

“The stated goal is to make it easier for law enforcement to obtain convictions in yet-to-be-brought criminal prosecutions and to create a pool of fingerprints from innocent persons for use by police,” added Pochoda. “The prints are not sought by the pharmacies and will not be used for any pharmaceutical or medical reason. The pharmacies will function as annexes to police stations for the collection of personal information and as conduits for the transmission of private information to law enforcement agencies.”

In addition to citing privacy concerns, the ACLU also raised concerns about ethical and professional obligations that pharmacists and medical providers have to serve patients’ needs.

In his 3-page testimony to the board, Pochoda added: “Pharmacists are used as force multipliers for law enforcement and their role as provider and protector of the public is perverted into one of criminal investigator. Peoria would rewrite the Oath of the Pharmacist to state: I will consider the welfare of humanity and relief of suffering my primary concern, but only if the sufferer provides fingerprints for use in a future prosecution, and: I will respect and protect all personal information entrusted to me, except the private information I send on to the police.”

Pochoda’s testimony is below as a pdf file. He shared these concerns with members of the Arizona State Pharmacy Board at its meeting this morning.

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