FMA will defend docs in complaints over gun questionsby Dara Kam | August 11th, 2011
The Florida Medical Association will represent doctors in administrative complaints involving a new law that limits what health care providers can ask patients about gun ownership.
But the association’s House of Delegates also voted late last month not to join a lawsuit challenging whether the new law is a violation of doctors’ freedom of speech.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and several doctors’ groups, including the Florida chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Practitioners and the American College of Physicians, filed the lawsuit in June against Gov. Rick Scott and his administration seeking an injunction against what they call the “Physician Gag Law,” already in effect. The groups, later joined by the Palm Beach County Medical Society and the ACLU, also want a federal judge to strike down the law as unconstitutional.
Under the law, doctors and other health care professionals will face sanctions including fines and losing their licenses if they ask patients about guns in the home without a direct belief that the inquiry is relevant to the patient’s safety or health. Pediatricians say the law keeps them from doing their jobs.
FMA general counsel Jeff Scott said the FMA’s House of Delegates rejected a proposal to join the lawsuit but later agreed to a substitute resolution calling for the FMA to help out doctors facing complaints related to the new law.
“We made kind of a policy statement that the doctor-patient relationship is important and to guide us going forward,” Scott said.
National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer, who pushed the legislation passed this session, worked with the FMA and eased off sanctions in an early proposal that would have slapped doctors with up to $5,000 fines and prison time for probing into patients’ gun ownership. Florida is the first state to pass such a law, Hammer said.
Under the amendment approved by the delegates late in July, the FMA will “legally support, to the greatest degree possible, any FMA member subject to disciplinary action based on enforcement of the Florida gun law … if the affected physician was acting based on the medical necessity and safety of the patient or others.” The organization will also be required to “actively oppose an attempt to restrict physician questions to patients or require questions of patients.”
Scott said he doesn’t think the resolution will be an issue because he doesn’t anticipate doctors breaking the law or patient complaints.
“I don’t think this will come into play,” he said.