Florida Police Arresting Patients Who Ask For Controlled Substances

doctor operation.jpgWelcome to 1984, where Big Brother has now intruded even further into your private life. Today’s lesson–be careful what you ask for. Orlando police can now get involved in something as simple as a trip to your doctor’s office. Florida laws can be broken by a patient within their doctor’s office in situations where the patient withholds information from his or her doctor. How can it be a crime to “not” tell your doctor something?

The crime of doctor shopping makes it unlawful in Florida to withhold information from a doctor when a patient seeks to obtain a controlled substance or prescription, and the patient has received a controlled substance or prescription of like use from another doctor within the previous 30 days. 99 times out of a 100, these situations transform into trafficking in hydrocodone or oxycodone charges, in addition to doctor shopping.

But there’s problems here with the definition of “withholding” information. After all, what if your doctor doesn’t ask about current prescriptions or meds? Such an issue was recently addressed by a Florida court in Knipp v. State, 35 F.L.W. D2898 (4th DCA 12/22/2010). Knipp moved to dismiss the charge of doctor shopping, asserting that the doctor never asked him about his current medications, thus he never really ‘withheld’ information. The court in Knipp held that the doctor shopping statute requires a patient to volunteer information to the doctor that he has received a prescription of like use within the previous thirty days.

Prosecutors handling cases of doctor shopping have a tough road, because, how can they prove that a patient “seeks to obtain a controlled substance or prescription”? The court in Knipp addressed this issue, with Judge Farmer noting in a concurring opinion that “To my mind, it would be a different matter if the defendant had instead merely stated his complaints and symptoms to the physician and asked whether something could be prescribed. In that alternative scenario, I do not read this statute to require the patient to volunteer recent prescriptions.”

It seems to me that if your doctor doesn’t ask about all the meds you’re taking, you should see another doctor, right? Even the court in Knipp noted that “multiple medications may interact with each other adversely. Hence physicians must at all times be aware of the possible effects of a new medication on the patient in light of his current meds. As I read the informed consent laws in Florida, physicians are already under a statutory burden to ask for that information from any patient for whom they would prescribe another medication.”

Based upon this court’s interpretation, the doctor shopping statute may have added a new burden on the patient to inform his doctor of current meds. I guess Florida courts don’t trust the state board certified/sanctioned/insured/licensed doctor’s to ask the right questions of patients. Years of schooling, big salaries, even a “Dr.” placed before their last name and an “M.D.” behind it, yet Orlando doctors can’t be burdened with asking the right questions. Never fear, Big Brother is here to force you to say certain things while meeting with your doctor. Don’t you feel better now?