Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Florida Gun Folly

Florida has forbidden physicians to ask their patients about guns!

Here's what the stunningly asinine law says:
Privacy of Firearm Owners: Provides that licensed practitioner or facility may not record firearm ownership information in patient's medical record; provides exception; provides that unless information is relevant to patient's medical care or safety or safety of others, inquiries regarding firearm ownership or possession should not be made; provides exception for EMTS & paramedics; provides that patient may decline to provide information regarding ownership or possession of firearms; clarifies that physician's authority to choose patients is not altered; prohibits discrimination by licensed practitioners or facilities based solely on patient's firearm ownership or possession; prohibits harassment of patient regarding firearm ownership during examination; prohibits denial of insurance coverage, increased premiums, or other discrimination by insurance companies issuing policies on basis of insured's or applicant's ownership, possession, or storage of firearms or ammunition; clarifies that insurer is not prohibited from considering value of firearms or ammunition in setting personal property premiums; provides for disciplinary action.
Effective Date: June 2, 2011
The Florida House supported the bill 88-30. The Senate supported it 27-10.

I learned about Florida's folly from a New York Times article that explained the origin of the bill:
The measure was introduced in the state Legislature after a pediatrician in Central Florida dismissed a mother from his practice when she angrily refused to answer a routine question about whether she kept a gun in her house. The doctor, Chris Okonkwo, said at the time that he asked so he could offer appropriate safety advice, just as he customarily asks parents if they have a swimming pool and teenagers if they use their cellphones when they drive. He said that he dismissed the mother because he felt they could not establish a trusting doctor-patient relationship.
Dr. Okonkwo is 100% correct that asking about guns in the home is an appropriate part of a responsible medical history. I can't comment on whether "dismissing" the mother from his practice was a reasonable step to take. But whatever one's attitude about the incident, legislating away a piece of medical caretaking is a symptom of the fractured political process in the U.S.

Shame on Florida!


eric said...

Jim--The Massachusetts Medical society condemned this legislation at its annual meeting in May. We learned that the NRA had been promoting similar legislation in several states for some time. --Eric
“Unrestricted Medical History – Delegates adopted a resolution that opposes legislative interference in the right of physicians and patients or parents and guardians to discuss gun ownership, storage or safety in the home. The resolution also opposes any legislative or regulatory limits on a physician’s ability to take a complete history and document relevant portions of the history into the permanent medical record.” 

Jim Sabin said...

Hi Eric -

As I said in my response to your comment on a previous post, I'm sorry for the delay in responding - I was on a most enjoyable trip abroad!

Thank you for this information. I'm glad that the Massachusetts Medical Society took a proactive stance on the issue Florida handled in such a disgraceful manner. The Florida law is a sad example if how virulent politics and political pandering can invade careful and compassionate medical practice.



Anonymous said...

The reason the law came into existence had to do with the fact that medical professionals were doing things other than health care. What is insane is the prices charged by health care providers. Health care reform only looked at one side of the triangle. If Doctors want to act like communists, why do the charge fees like capitalists?

The Professor

Jim Sabin said...

Dear Anonymous -

What a great quotable phrase you've made - "If Doctors want to act like communists, why do the charge fees like capitalists?"! (I'm not sure in what way doctors are acting like communists, but I love your phrase!)

Economic research that compares our health costs to other countries agrees with your point - our prices are sky high by international standards.

If by "medical professionals were doing things other than health care" you are referring to asking about guns, I disagree. Asking about health related factors - drinking and driving, smoking, seat belt use, texting while driving, safe handling of guns, etc - is all part of good health care.

Thank you for your comment, and congratulations again on an excellent sound bite!