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UPDATE: Physicians threaten lawsuit over ‘docs and Glocks’ bill

by Dara Kam | June 2nd, 2011

UPDATE: Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill (HB 155) into law today.

Three groups of physicians are threatening to sue the state if Gov. Rick Scott signs into law a bill barring doctors from asking patients if they own a gun.

Lawyers representing members of the Florida chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Physicians asked Scott to veto the measure (HB 155) because they say it restricts their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.

“Healthcare professionals throughout the state of Florida routinely speak with patients about effective methods to minimize a variety of risks to their health and safety,” attorneys Bruce Manheim Jr. and Douglas Hallward-Driemeier of the Washington-based law firm Ropes & Gray wrote to Scott last week. Scott has until June 9 to act on the law.

Doctors advise patients about safety issues associated with swimming pools, dangerous chemicals, bike helmets and car seats, they wrote, and “provide anticipatory guidance regarding the significant health risks posed by firearms in the household.”

The bill would prohibit those talks and impose severe sanctions including fines and permanent revocation of licenses.

“In sum, if CS/CS/HB 155 becomes law, it will deprive healthcare professionals throughout the state of Florida of their rights under the First Amendment to freedom of speech. In violation of the U.S. Constitution, the law would also deprive patients of potentially life-saving information regarding safety measures they can take to protect their children, families and others from injury or death resulting from unsafe storage or handling of firearms,” the lawyers wrote. “For these reasons, we intend to file a lawsuit against you and other state officials in the event this legislation becomes law.”

The NRA sent out an action alert last week asking members to pressure Scott to sign the measure.

“Doctors need to treat illness, not guns. Pediatricians and other physicians, in growing numbers, are prying into our personal lives, invading our privacy and straying from issues relating to disease and medicine by questioning children or their parents about gun ownership,” the NRA’s Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer, a former NRA president, urged in an e-mail on May 26.

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24 Responses to “UPDATE: Physicians threaten lawsuit over ‘docs and Glocks’ bill”

  1. Rob Says:

    How about this doc. If I come to you with a stuffy nose or cough just treat the illness I came in for. What does my owning, or not owning a firearm have to do with my cold? If I have a pool or a child I will make the decisions for the safety of my family and friends. Your job is to treat my illness. Where do these intrusions into our lives stop?

  2. dark gator Says:

    The nerve of these doctors! Maybe we could get along just fine without them.

  3. Max Tucker Says:

    How dare they!
    When I had a cough they asked if I smoked!
    The nerve!

  4. half pint Says:

    The free speech right is for statements. It is not for questions to others about personal items in their home. Its none of anyone’s business if I have a sidearm in my home- the only people outside my home that would know that are: potential burglars/home invaders/rapists, they will then have proof if I own a sidearm when they are taken to the hospital with a souvenier in their butt.

  5. Tom J. Says:

    In some cases, physicians can only do their best in directing a critically ill patient’s care and hope for a positive outcome. A sad fact of life is that such patients sometimes die despite the health care team’s best efforts. Another sad fact is that unstable family members sometimes become irrational in their grief, and lash out in response to outcomes that, ultimately, were beyond anyone’s control. I believe in the philosophy that people, not guns, kill people, and that many other objects cans serve as equally effective weapons, but feel that physicians and other health care professionals are entitled to know if potentially dangerous family members own firearms. The alternative is to allow doctors, nurses, and hospital security guards to arm themselves, and require hospitals to provide secure storage for their weapons when they are involved in patient care. I am also starting to believe that Governor Scott was a very poor choice for Florida voters, myself included.

  6. half pint Says:

    So if the Dr. asks- and the patient says: none of your business- what then? Is the requirement that they are allowed to ask or interrogate the patient for an answer? What happens if the patient states: yes, I do own a weapon. Whgat does the Dr. do with that info? Is it still considered under Dr./patient priveledge?

  7. half pint Says:

    Tom J: like you said people kill people, not the weapon. with that in mind- maybe just asking if there any household members that have ver been under a psychologist’s care would be more effective (but I still believe that patients will lie to protect family members)and if the patient were honest and say: yes, my husband has depression. wouldn’t that be breaking the Dr./Patient priveledge and disclosing someone else’s medical status looks like a lawsuit waiting to happen.
    so again- what stops the patient from lying to the Dr.?

  8. Tom J. Says:

    One question, “Do you or a close family member own a firearm,” does not constitute an interrogation. Lying is always a possibility, and another solid argument that supports gun registration; perhaps physicians should have immediate online access to the federal gun registry. I agree with half-pint about psych profile disclosures of close family members; signed waivers would address confidentiality issues. That brings up two more points. First is that a few lunatic gun owners threaten the rights of the rest of us to bear arms and protect ourselves, our families, and our property with deadly force, if necessary. Second is that policing ourselves and endorsing reasonable gun legislation is the best way to avoid further interference with our rights. Not to hijack this thread, but one common argument against gun control is that guns are our only protection from tyranny. Considering the sophistication of modern military weaponry, it’s more realistic to believe that anyone who wishes hard enough can sprout wings and fly. Don’t blame the politicians for trying to take our firearms- blame the criminals and lunatics who inspire mass hysteria and absurd legislation.

  9. Stratocaster Says:

    Despite all the yammering about First Amendment and Second Amendment rights, the notion that docs could lose their right to practice for an infraction has been lost. (A violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition of “excessive fines” or “cruel and unusual punishment”?) That part of the proposal is definitely a cure worse than the disease. We already have a shortage of qualified physicians.

  10. Tom J. Says:

    Yammering? Not to physicians and others who would prefer to defend themselves rather than rely on an overweight, unarmed security guard whose other income is a social security check. But you’re right about the physician shortage.

  11. jill b Says:

    Amazing that a physician asking a question can get so many people’s panties in a twist. You can say, “I don’t want to tell you.” You can tell your doctor whatever you want. But if someone is suicidal or psychotic, should the doctors just look the other way? It is part of their oath that they do whatever they can to help their patients. If asking whether you own a gun saves a life, then I am all for letting them do that. Taking away that right is the first step on a slippery slope.

  12. Tom J. Says:

    Right on, Miss Jill. Tom out.

  13. Leeada Says:

    None of the medial professions business, and totally outside their field of expertise.
    It would make more sense for the patient to ask the doctor”What drugs do you take”, is there a history of mental illness in your family?, How much sleep do you get? what is your history of malpractice?, have you been covicted of any crimes? what percentile of your graduating class are you?, and if asked qustions about firearms, it should be the Doc’s duty to disclose their political affilliations and their understanding of the 2nd Amendment…

  14. Paul Says:

    Don’t blame the politicians for trying to take our firearms- blame the criminals and lunatics who inspire mass hysteria and absurd legislation.
    If you don’t blame absurd legislation on the [politicians, you are wrong.

  15. Paul Says:

    But if someone is suicidal or psychotic, should the doctors just look the other way?
    If someone is suicidal or psychotic, the doctor can inquire about firearms.

    You should read the legislation before you criticize it.

  16. DR MCCOY - USS ENTERPRISE 1701 Says:

    I thought that the first question asked by the doctor, while standing in the lobby bleeding to death in need of immediate medical care, is whether there is insurance ??

    No insurance?? NO SERVICE ! ….BLOODSUCKERS…..

  17. Ralphyboy Says:

    If this was about safety, wouldn’t it be reasonable to put up posters and have brochures in the waiting room to address safe firearms storage? Also, for swimming pools, car seats, etc. This is done for many diseases and conditions. If parents don’t have their children taught to swim or at least “drown proofed”, maybe, they should be arrested. Ask about that Doctor. The questions are pure AMA liberal agenda. Do the doctors also ask if the parents are glad they didn’t get an abortion?

  18. Steve Hogge Says:

    Give me medicine, take my money, and then GO AWAY. That’s your job. You are not my nanny.

    How dare you attack my civil rights? If you really want to protect kids, ask patients if they’re likely to have convenience abortions so you can prescribe condoms.

  19. Mike Says:

    The patients are children, not an adult you can interrogate. Also the Dr. is required to notify police if there are any gunshot wounds. The pediatricians need to provide healthcare not detective work. Here’s an idea give the police officer the Dr’s job and send your kid to them for healthcare? Yea I didn’t think so.. They aren’t qualified and would probably end up making your child sicker or worse, dead. Can you imagine a pediatrician running around with a gun and badge trying to catch the badguy. This lawsuit is a joke, and the empty suits that wrote this letter need their diapers changed. How’s that for freedom of speech?

  20. ignorant doc Says:

    Pediatricians are experts in child safety. Right to bear arms is a right, but it doesn’t mean the bearer knows squat about child safety. That’s the pediatrician’s job. If you leave your gun lying around where your 5 year-old can shoot your 7 year-old, your pediatrician would like to prevent that. You should want your pediatrician to help you to keep your child alive and healthy.

    You know, the same people who complain about this are the same people who complain about being counseled about smoking and drinking and eating really bad food. The MD is trying to help you, but if you continue, you will die earlier than your neighbor who lives healthier, plain and simple…unless, of course, your kid shoots him with the gun you leave around on the counter.

  21. Mike Says:

    Pediatricians are not experts in child safety, they’re experts in healthcare. At least the ones who haven’t been sued for malpractice.

    Doc, when’s the last time a pediatrician came to your house to child proof it with electric outlet plastic inserts, or went to a retailer with you to pick out a child safety car seat?

    So.. They have no business in asking a law abiding citizen that carries a permit how many guns they have. It’s none of their business.

  22. ignorant doc Says:

    You obviously know nothing about pediatrics, which was a safe assumption from your post.

    Pediatricians counsel people about making their homes safer for their kids. If you don’t believe that, a) you don’t have kids, b) you’re being obtuse, or c) you don’t know what a pediatrician is.

    When I ask someone if they have a gun in their home, I’m not trying to have them get rid of their gun. I am trying to make sure that their gun is stored safely. Even the NRA believes this in “A Parent’s Guide to Gun Safety” – “Store guns so that they are inaccessible to children and other unauthorized users.”

    Our job isn’t to go into homes and do anything, but instead to give good advice that is backed up by data. If you don’t buy that, you’re either being argumentative or you just don’t get it.

  23. Mike Says:

    I know what a pediatrician is and does.. Make a pamphlet that educates the patients. Your job is to heal and provide Meds, not interrogate children and or their parents. If you want to enforce gun safety then become a cop or politician. Otherwise do your job!

  24. paula's choice Says:

    If you don’t buy that, you’re either being argumentative or you just don’t get it.

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