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Law barring doctors talking to patients about gun ownership undermines public health issue
Date:11/9/2011

SAN DIEGO, CA -- A Florida law restricting physicians from counseling patients and parents about firearms safety endangers open communication between doctors and patients on a critical prevention and public health problem, experts warn in a "Current Issues" article published online today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The measure, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott on June 1, requires that doctors, emergency medical personnel and other healthcare providers refrain from asking about gun ownership unless they "in good faith [believe] that this information is relevant to the patient's medical care or safety, or the safety of others." If they do ask, they can't enter the response into a patient's medical record.

The AJPM article, by Eric W. Fleegler, MD, MPH, of the Division of Emergency Medicine at Children's Hospital Boston and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, and colleagues, says the law is an assault on the physician-patient relationship.

"The open and confidential nature of the physicianpatient relationship is fundamental and allows doctors to talk effectively with their patients about a wide range of social issues such as smoking, alcohol use, health insurance, and intimate partner violence," the authors write.

The article notes that "as early as the 1890s, physicians have made recommendations about the ownership and safe handling of firearms. The physician visit offers a unique and valuable opportunity to provoke reflection among our citizens on these health-related topics. How can a physician instruct and encourage their patients to lock their guns and store them unloaded if the physician cannot even ask about gun ownership?"

After Gov. Scott signed the bill, three Florida physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Academy of Family Physicians and American College of Physicians sued the governor and other state officials in federal court to block the m
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Contact: Beverly Lytton
eAJPM@ucsd.edu
858-534-9340
Elsevier Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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