Use of medical records an issue in Limbaugh case

Published: Wednesday, June 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 31, 2005 at 11:36 p.m.
WEST PALM BEACH - Rush Limbaugh's attorney urged a judge Tuesday to limit the medical records that prosecutors can review for their investigation into whether the best-selling author and commentator illegally purchased painkillers.
Attorney Roy Black said the records, which were seized in 2003, should be reviewed by a judge before they are opened to prosecutors.
''We're talking about privacy matters and privileged matters,'' Black told the judge, saying prosecutors should not see ''things that have nothing do to with the items that they are investigating.''
Limbaugh had hoped to keep his records closed to prosecutors entirely, but he lost at the Circuit Court and appellate court levels. The Florida Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
Prosecutors seized the records after learning that Limbaugh received about 2,000 painkillers, prescribed by four doctors in six months, at a pharmacy near his Palm Beach mansion.
They contend that Limbaugh engaged in ''doctor shopping,'' or illegally deceived multiple doctors to receive overlapping prescriptions.
Limbaugh has not been charged with a crime and has maintained his innocence. He has acknowledged he became addicted to pain medication, blaming it on severe back pain, and took a five-week leave from his radio show to enter a rehabilitation program in 2003.
Assistant State Attorney James Martz said investigators have agreed not to publicly disclose the personal details contained in the medical records. He urged Palm Beach Circuit Judge Jeffrey A. Winikoff to act quickly because the investigation already has been stalled more than 18 months by the appeals.
''There's not an investigation in criminal law that gets better with time. This thing has been protracted and protracted and protracted,'' Martz said.
Limbaugh argued that the case threatens the privacy rights of all Floridians - a point which drew the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, a group the outspoken conservative has chastised on other issues.
In his new appeal, Limbaugh wants prosecutors to see only records related to his prescriptions. The judge did say when he would rule.

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