Sometimes common sense and good law can co-exist. It happened last week when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a South Carolina hospital's claim to drug-test pregnant women and report positive results to police.
The drug-testing program at a Charleston hospital stretched the bounds of common sense and common decency. Fortunately, the Supreme Court ruled that the program was out of bounds legally. The test-and-refer policy violates the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches, the court said in a 6-3 ruling. The policy also violates the common-sense dictum that the ends don't always justify the means...
The program's good intent was to protect the welfare of the newborn babies. In practice, though, it was callous, cruel and completely ineffective. Police arrested the women at their hospital beds, put them in chains and shackles and carted them off to jail -- some while they were still bleeding from delivery. The babies were placed in state custody. All of which begs the question: What's the point?
...The court's ruling upholds two valued principles. First, that the patient-doctor relationship is private and can be violated only under unusual circumstances. Second, that police must present evidence to justify a search. The South Carolina program stretched and blurred the boundaries between the two. The court, correctly, has set things right.
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