Of DUIs and EHRs

I read that a Minnesota Court ordered the release of a DUI breathalyzer source code. The legal theory being that the accused has the right to examine the evidence against them. The company making the machine is apparently balking at the request. How far can you go by claiming something is protected as a trade secret?

It makes me wonder if this will be an issue for EHRs of the future considering the wild west legal environment of malpractice claims? It seems like this could really raise the cost and stakes of legal discovery in the case of proprietary systems.

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D. Rizzo

Talk about stupid Court decisions! If the breathalyzer operator, the machine & the company can show that what they did was correct & has been in numerous cases then there should be no need for the company to reveal source code. If there have been problems with the machine that is a different story. More than likely it is some drunks lawyer trying anything to keep a client out of jail for DUI. If they did the crime they should do the time. If there is actually something wrong w/ the machine(s) then fair is fair, but, lately a lot of people seem to have forgotten right from wrong & then want to whine about getting caught & they make the cop the bad guy. It could be total propaganda.

Edward Zurick

Well, I don’t totally agree with D.Rizzo’s opinion or comments. First and foremost, I am a true believer in public services transparancy. And throughout my many years of working with the federal government, secrecy opens the door to abuse and corruption! And it conditions the stake-holders to so called, “turn to the dark side”. I believe everything within our public services MUST have accountability; otherwise it should be repealed or never approved. With this issue of the breathalyzer machines and also the related electronic poll machines, I am like many who feel that I don’t want some private (for profit) company shoving their product at us legally and claiming everything is ok and legitimate. BUT their product is a secret! You can trust them all you want, but not me! I want accountability when someone is shoving a tube at me and questioning my freedom and innocence!

Lastly, define the crime which they must do the time? It is NOT against the law to drink and then drive! It is against the law to hold a certain degree or ratio of alcohol in your blood system and get behind the wheel. That is what this is all about. However, I don’t honestly believe the source code would reveal anything to help the defendant, but perhaps if the machine wasn’t certified properly for calibration, that may be more logical approach. I am not defending drunken drivers or DUI/DWI. I am in support of fairness in the legal system and accountablity to public services, especially law enforcement.

Lorie Obal

Ed’s comments are in step with the movement to make important computer systems such as EHR’s open source so that important things like your medical records, can’t be held hostage in a proprietary format. See also my earlier blog entry about Senator Rockefeller’s introduction of a bill to make healthcare systems open source.

Regarding his second paragraph, a classmate once told about a former Navy buddy of his who went to court to refute his speeding ticket. He explained to the judge in great detail how the Police radar is incorrectly calibrated and provided his certificate from the Navy indicating he had been certified as a radar expert. His driving record was cleared.