Suppose I am a physician and as a part of my practice I want to know whether my patients own guns and whether they properly secure their guns. Suppose I, too, own guns and suppose that as a result of poor gun security someone in my family was tragically shot and killed by a poorly secured gun in the hands of a child. In fact, suppose that I am unwilling to accept as patients anyone who owns guns, has children and refuses to take reasonable measures to secure the guns in their home.
Anything wrong with this? Don’t I have the right to accept or not accept patients as I see fit? Can I put a sign up in my waiting room that says something like:” We reserve the right to refuse treatment to careless gun owners? Be aware that I will ask you about your gun ownership.”
According to the Florida legislature, apparently an enormous problem exists over physicians asking patients about gun ownership. Ask about sexual practices, drinking or drug taking practices; ask about the financial ability to pay fees; but “don’t tread on my guns”.
A group of physicians recently filed a lawsuit over the recently enacted HB 155 which places financial and other penalties on physicians who have the temerity to ask patients about guns in their home. Not surprisingly, the physicians who filed suit are largely pediatricians. This is where the conversation most always arises. New parents and the physician’s general conversation about child safety are old practices of good physicians.
Apparently, though, the bill seems to prohibit every doctor from asking patients about gun ownership. The doctor can ask about knives, poison, explosives, and other potentially lethal accouterments, but is forbidden from asking about guns.
Supporters of the law, like Florida NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer, have a unique view on their normal cry of “less government”:
“We pay doctors to be doctors and give us medical care,” Hammer said in an interview with the Capital News Service last week. “Instead, they are trying to be social workers and bring their gun-ban politics into the examining room.”
Last I checked, confidentiality exists between physician and patient. In addition, patients are free to “fire” their doctor and seek another professional if they do not like what the doctor does or says. Believe me; I have fired my share of opinionated doctors.
The Florida Medical Association withdrew its opposition to the law after assurances were included in the bill “allowing physicians, nurses and other practitioners to ask questions about gun ownership if they feel the patient or a family member might be in danger.”
I suppose that suggests the question: what about the rest of us? Can a physician ask if someone says they just read something written by say, me, and they feel strongly about wanting to me harm?
The NRA is very protective of the Second amendment, but they apparently do not care about the whole free speech thing in the First amendment to the constitution.