Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

The NRA Wants To Prevent Physicians From Asking Their Patients About Guns

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.

Bob Centor of DB’s Medical Rants calls the NRA bill an “outrageous” attack on the doctor-patient relationship. He links to a must-read blog from a gun owing ER physician from Texas who explains why no physician should support the NRA bill—including the compromise.

I am not going to second-guess the difficult decisions made by the Florida Medical Association. But I agree with Dr. Centor that it is “outrageous” that the government would even consider dictating to a doctor what he or she can say to a patient. If this isn’t big government at its worst, tell me what is?

If the government can ban physicians from asking patients about firearms, what’s next? Will legislators sympathetic to the cattle industry try to prohibit physicians from asking patients about their consumption of steaks? Will advocates for legalized marijuana try to prohibit physicians from asking patients about their use of drugs? Where does it stop?

And where are all of the “constitutional conservatives” who carry copies of the U.S. constitution in their pockets? Are they raising their voices against the NRA and its state legislature sycophants over this egregious attack on the first amendment right to free speech? If the NRA succeeds in Florida and other states in getting physicians thrown in jail if they violate a government-dictated speech, then how can I as a patient trust anything that my doctor tells me in the examination room?

Today’s question: What do you think about the NRA’s effort to pass laws to dictate to doctors what they can and can’t say to their patients?

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*


You may also like these posts

Read comments »


Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

Caring For Winter Olympians In Sochi: An Interview With Team USA’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gloria Beim

I am a huge fan of the winter Olympics partly because I grew up in Canada where most kids can ski and skate before they can run and partly because I used to participate in Downhill ski racing. Now that I m a rehab physician with a reconstructed knee I…

Read more »

How Do Hospital Executives Feel About Locum Tenens Agencies And Traveling Physicians?

I recently wrote about my experiences as a traveling physician and how to navigate locum tenens work. Today I want to talk about the client in this case hospital side of the equation. I ve had the chance to speak with several executives some were physicians themselves about the overall…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

Unaccountable: A Book About The Underbelly Of Hospital Care

I met Dr. Marty Makary over lunch at Founding Farmers restaurant in DC about three years ago. We had an animated conversation about hospital safety the potential contribution of checklists to reducing medical errors and his upcoming book about the need for more transparency in the healthcare system. Marty was…

Read more »

See all book reviews »