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Whalen v. Roe

Prescription Drugs And The Patients' Right To Privacy, Impact


Whalen, Commissioner of Health New York


Roe, et al.

Appellant's Claim

A New York state law requiring that the names of prescription drug users be sent to a computer for record-keeping did not violate the constitutional right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Chief Lawyer for Appellant

A. Seth Greenwald

Chief Lawyer for Appellees

Michael Lesch

Justices for the Court

Harry A. Blackmun, William J. Brennan, Jr., Warren E. Burger, Thurgood Marshall, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., William H. Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens (writing for the Court), Potter Stewart, Byron R. White

Justices Dissenting



Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

22 February 1977


The Court upheld a New York State law requiring that the names of prescription drug users be sent to a computer for record-keeping.


In Whalen v. Roe the Court established that liberty within itself was not a fundamental right guaranteed to all. If the state, as was the case with the New York's drug prescription registry, could make a rational showing for the law then it was not unconstitutional.

Related Cases

  • Kelley v. Johnson, 425 U.S. 238 (1976).
  • Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307 (1982).
  • Roberts v. United Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609 (1984).
  • Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dept. of Health, 497 U.S. 261 (1990).

Further Readings

  • Gunther, Gerald and Kathleen Sullivan. Constitutional Law, 13th edition. New York: The Foundation Press Inc., 1997.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980