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Tuesday, 9 August 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!


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