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07/02/2003 Archived Entry: "Cops to do medical checks on drivers?"
IT'S TRUE THAT LEGAL DRUGS CAN IMPAIR A DRIVER'S ABILITIES. No brainer. It usually even says so right on the package. But since when did cops become qualified to perform detailed medical exams? According to this article, some cops -- who presumably know no more about medicine than thee and me -- are to be conducting 45-minute diagnostic exams on drivers. The police will conclude, on the basis of their findings, whether a person is using performance-impairing drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medications.
Geez, will they consult about our kidney stones at the same time? Or advise on our appendectomy?
Are they fully qualified to distinugish between a "drug impairment" and symptoms of illness? If they see "tense muscles," as the article notes, will they infallibly know the difference between tension caused by a drug, tension caused by a nerve condition, and tension caused by being scared s**tless of having cops poking their fingers into bodily orifices? Amazing! Barely trained cops expect to do this perfectly in 45 minutes, when it often takes doctors years and batteries of costly tests to do -- and often still results in a misdiagnosis.
And what about our emotional states? Anger, euphoria, despair, and hysterical laughter could also impair our driving. Are cops going to learn Insta-Psychoanalysis (TM) next year, so they can do on-the-spot diagnoses of all our potential mental impairments, as well?
When they "throw the book at us" in the future, will it be the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy? Or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders?
What ever happened to cops simply dealing with behavior that they observed endangering others? Or is that too dull for our newly expert-in-all-fields Super Cops?
Roadside medical diagnosis is new -- but it's also not. In the original European police states of the Enlightenment, the law-enforcement apparatus was considered qualified to judge health, morals, and virtually everything else about the subject people. And subject is the operative word. (In one "civilized" state, in fact, women were required to report the onset of their monthly menstrual periods to the police.)
Aaron Zelman and I wrote about these historic police states (and their eerie reflections in modern America) in The State vs the People. And yes, if you wish you may consider that a plug for the book.
Thanks again to S.
Posted by Claire @ 10:41 AM CST