Numerous laws are promulgated in order to regulate the activities of human beings within a society. Laws are of a necessity in every society in order to achieve a certain level of peace and order. Without laws, there would be no limits as regards the actions and exercise of discretion of individuals within a community.
Hence, it is necessary to create and promulgate laws in order to set out what is acceptable and unacceptable within a society. Lawmakers, in the process of making laws, also formulate methods as to how law offenders will be apprehended. This is a necessary element in making sure that the laws are faithfully adhered to by every citizen.
However, it must be borne in mind that in formulating laws and guidelines, the power of legislators are not absolute. Primarily, the laws that shall be promulgated must comply with the due process clause of the Constitution and must not be contrary to other existing laws.
The Baxley-Storms bill is one such law that seeks to regulate the lives of individuals within a community, particularly of teenagers. The law mandates health care professionals to call policemen if they have knowledge or information regarding a pregnant girl of 15 or younger.
“In addition, doctors who perform abortions on such girls would be required to collect a DNA sample from the fetus and send it to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement”(Liberto and Catalanello, 2007). The law seeks to be a tool in monitoring violations of different sexual crimes against teenagers, most especially statutory rape. By virtue of the Baxley-Storms bill, upon relation of the information by the health care professional concerned, criminal investigation as regards the matter will ensue.
At first glance, the law serves a justifiable purpose as it seeks to protect teenagers from perpetration of sexual crimes against them. However, as mentioned earlier, before a law can be passed, it must conform to the requirements and guidelines set by the constitution.
Firstly, it must be pointed out that despite the praiseworthy objective of the Baxley-Storms bill, it permits an unreasonable intrusion into the privacy of teenagers seeking health care in the form of pregnancy check-ups or abortions.
The right to privacy is a constitutionally guaranteed right, and thus it cannot be defeated by any subsequent statute. So also, the means employed by said bill is not commensurate with the purpose it seeks to serve as there are other measures that the State may take in monitoring offenders of statutory rape.
Secondly, and more importantly, the Baxley-Storms bill seems to go against the principle of doctor-patient confidentiality. Under this concept, the doctor is duty-bound to keep the confidential nature of any communication or information relayed by the patient in relation to their doctor-patient relationship.
The purpose of this rule in evidence is to make sure that individuals within a society will not sacrifice their health in fear of being prosecuted subsequently. Hence, any matter learned by the doctor or health care professional in the course of his duties cannot be disclosed by him nor be taken against the patient in any investigation or proceedings.
If the Baxley-Storms bill is passed, the doctor-patient confidentiality will be completely disregarded because not only is the doctor given the liberty to disclose information revealed by the patient, but in fact, he is mandated by law to relate said information to law enforcement officers in order to investigate as to whether or not statutory rape has been committed against the teenager who sought medical help.
This appears risky because “if a 15-year-old is having consensual sex with her 15-year-old boyfriend and gets pregnant and she knows if she goes to a health care provider that the possible consequence is that her 15-year-old boyfriend could be thrown in jail, what’s the likelihood she’ll seek any care?” (Liberto and Catalanello citing Tamayo). The proposed piece of legislation could even create more danger than that sought to be suppressed.
In conclusion, the bill proposed by Senator Storms and Representative Baxley serves a legitimate purposes yet it cannot be gainsaid that the bill is facing challenges as regards its reasonableness.
The bill fails to employ a reasonable means of serving the purpose and it clearly goes against the settled policy of doctor-patient privilege. In balancing the interests involved, it is believed that the right of teenagers to privacy and the importance of the doctor-patient privilege for teenagers seeking health care assistance must be given more weight and value.
Jennifer Liberto and Rebecca Catalanello (2007). “Legislator Want Pregnant Girls Reported”. <http://www.sptimes.com/2007/03/07/news_pf/State/Legislators_want_preg.shtml>