Sunday, August 14, 2011

New Gun Law Restricts Health Care Providers

Florida recently passed a law making it illegal for doctors to ask patients whether there is a gun in their house during a routine health care visit. The law, CS/CS/ HB155, which became effective in early June, makes some exceptions for EMTs and paramedics, who frequently treat people injured by gun violence.

But the law's wording makes it clear that Florida firearm owners are primarily concerned about their own privacy. The law prohibits recording firearm ownership in a patient's medical record, prohibits "harassment of patient regarding firearm ownership during examination," and prohibits "discrimination by insurance companies" against firearm owners.

Asking about, or counseling against, gun ownership is not an idle issue. As physician Erin N. Marcus points out in a New York Times essay on this topic:
As a general internist in South Florida, I often see the effects of gun violence. Many of my patients have been injured or disabled by a gunshot, or had a family member shot and killed. Shortly after the new law went into effect, local television stations broadcast a story about a 4-year-old in Miami who was accidentally shot by his 17-year-old half brother, who was playing with a .22-caliber rifle.

Asking patients questions about their sexual habits, alcohol consumption, gun ownership, and other "off-limit" topics is part of a doctor's job in providing good health care to a patient. This information is used privately by the doctor to ensure better care, not reported to local authorities. Questions from health care providers about illegal activities, such as illegal drug use or texting while driving (illegal in some states) don't provoke public outrage. Questions about legal gun possession do.

1 comment:

Miss Kitty said...

I just shake my head when more legislation like this comes out. I just...I have no words. Health professionals are trying to do their jobs, and people are trying to tell themselves that these dangerous things/substances/practices they have around the house aren't dangerous. "Can't happen to me."

[deep sigh]