Should the government be able to dictate to a doctor what he or she is allowed to discuss with a patient? Yes, says the National Rifle Association (NRA), which is pushing state legislation to prohibit physicians from asking patients about firearms in their homes.
An NRA-supported bill in Florida originally would have made it a criminal offense—punishable by fines and/or jail—if physicians asked a patient about firearms. The Florida Medical Association (FMA) fiercely opposed the bill as an intrusion on the physician-patient relationship. Now, a compromise has been reached between the NRA and the FMA that “allow doctors to ask questions about gun ownership, as long as the physician doesn’t ‘harass’ the patient, and doesn’t enter the information into the patient’s record without a good reason.” Violations would be policed by the state licensing board instead of being subject to criminal prosecution.
A long-standing ACP policy encourages physicians “to inform patients about the dangers of keeping firearms, particularly handguns, in the home and to advise them on ways to reduce the risk of injury.” But this issue is much bigger than guns, it is about whether the government should be allowed to tell physicians what they can and can’t say to patients. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*
When reports arrived that accused gunman Jared Lee Loughner had opened fire in Tucson, Arizona on January 7, journalistic first responders linked the incident to the fierceness of political rhetoric in the United States. Upon reflection, some of the discussion has turned to questions about mental illness, guns, and violence.
And plenty of reflection is required, because the connections are not at all simple. To get a sense of just how complicated they are, we invite you to read the lead article in this month’s Harvard Mental Health Letter entitled, “Mental Illness and Violence.” Strangely (for us) it was prepared for publication a month before the tragedy in Tucson. In light of the shooting, we are making the article available to non-subscribers.
I am not surprised at the outrage expressed in the news or at the impulse to blame. A quick scan of the news, however, shows there is not much agreement about whom to blame. In addition to the alleged perpetrator, one can find explicit and implicit criticisms of politicians for playing to our baser instincts; of media figures, various men and women of zeal, for their disingenuous or manipulative partisanship; of the various community bystanders (police, teachers, doctors, family members, neighbors, friends), whom we imagine could have intervened to prevent tragedy.
The political debate flowing from this incident will continue, as will the endless cycle of blame and defensiveness. But I caution all of us — and especially mental health professionals — not to make clinical judgments about Mr. Loughner. Very few people will or should have access to the kind of information that would allow such judgments. From a public health perspective, however, we should make careful judgments about policies that could reduce risk. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*