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Court Tells Nosy Doctors To Butt Out — Again

Court Tells Nosy Doctors To Butt Out — Again

Florida doctors intent on prying into their patients’ gun ownership habits, and those anti-gunners who support such activities, have recently been handed another huge loss—marking another major victory for Sunshine State gun owners.

In the latest action in a long, back-and-forth battle, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta lifted an injunction that had blocked enforcement of Florida’s Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, which barred doctors from asking patients about gun ownership, or keeping records on patients’ gun ownership, unless medically necessary. This is the second time the Act has been upheld by the courts.Because a patient is in a vulnerable position, he or she can be especially susceptible to a doctor’s wishes—even if those wishes have nothing to do with the doctor’s medical expertise.

The law was originally passed after an escalating series of events in which patients were harassed or denied access to services because they refused to be interrogated by their doctors about their ownership of firearms when it wasn’t relevant to the patients’ care. An appellate court upheld the law last July, stating: “The essence of the Act is simple: Medical practitioners should not record information or inquire about patients’ firearm-ownership status when doing so is not necessary to providing the patient with good medical care.”

It’s important to note that the law doesn’t ban a doctor from talking about firearms, as many on the other side of the issue claim. The court held, instead, that the Act “protects a patient’s ability to receive effective medical treatment without compromising the patient’s privacy with regard to matters unrelated to healthcare.” 

In fact, that’s the central crux of the issue—and why the Act doesn’t infringe on a doctor’s First Amendment rights. It’s simply a matter of a patient going to a doctor and having his or her illness treated without being harassed or harangued over firearm ownership.

In a recent A1FD feature, Dr. Timothy Wheeler, head of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, said that physicians promoting an anti-gun agenda are actually violating medical ethics by committing a “boundary violation.” 

Because a patient is in a vulnerable position, he or she can be especially susceptible to a doctor’s wishes—even if those wishes have nothing to do with the doctor’s medical expertise. One classic example of a boundary violation is a doctor initiating a sexual relationship with a patient. Likewise, using the doctor-patient relationship to convince a patient to make a particular financial investment is a boundary violation, since doctors have no more expertise about investments than does the general public.Of course, anti-gun doctors and other gun-ban advocates will cry foul even louder than before, as many push an agenda to have “gun violence” lumped in with influenza, AIDS and other diseases as a “public health issue.” 

Wheeler argues that anti-gun counseling is also a boundary violation. Unlike firearms safety instructors, or criminologists who specialize in firearms study, doctors who have read only a few slanted, inaccurate articles in the AAP journal Pediatrics are certainly not gun safety experts, and they should not use the doctor-patient relationship to promote a political agenda.

The court agreed, writing in this latest decisions: “The State made the commonsense determination that inquiry about firearm ownership, a topic which many of its citizens find highly private, falls outside the bounds of good medical care to the extent the physician knows such inquiry to be entirely irrelevant to the medical care or safety of a patient or any person.”

Of course, anti-gun doctors and other gun-ban advocates will cry foul even louder than before, as many push an agenda to have “gun violence” lumped in with influenza, AIDS and other diseases as a “public health issue.” Further litigation targeting the law certainly isn’t unlikely.

But what’s important for now is that the law has again been upheld. Consequently, the right of gun owners and their families to keep and bear arms; their right to privacy in the exercise of that right; and their right not to be interrogated, lectured and put on record by a socialized medical system that’s increasingly becoming a tool of government lives on in the Sunshine State.

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