This alert was recently sent out to the Florida Medical Association's members, presaging a special-interest free-for-all as it tussles with the NRA over its bill banning doctor inquiries about gun ownership.
As you have probably heard, there is legislation moving in the Florida Legislature, SB 432 and HB 155, which is a major intrusion into the patient-physician relationship. These bills place the government in the middle of the relationship between doctors and our patients by regulating what questions physicians can ask during a private medical examination. This legislation criminalizes doctors who ask their patients about gun ownership to ascertain accurate and complete patient history as well as advise patients on gun safety. The bill also prohibits physicians from discharging a patient from his or her practice based on the patient’s refusal to answer a question. This is an inappropriate intrusion of government into the bond that exists between doctors and their patients. The FMA is adamantly opposed to these bills.
We urge you to contact your hometown legislators today and tell them that physicians strongly oppose SB 432 and HB 155 because it puts the government in the middle of the private relationship between physicians and their patients. At a time when we are facing a physician shortage and competing with other states to retain and attract physicians, HB 155 sends the wrong message. This legislation, if passed, would make Florida the only state in the nation to pass such an extreme measure and would send the message to doctors all over the country that Florida is an unfriendly place to practice medicine.
Click here to contact your legislator.
The FMA believes that the relationship between a doctor and a patient is at the core of the practice of medicine and is essential for the delivery of quality health care in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. The patient-physician relationship forms one of the foundations of medical ethics. In medical school, we are taught from the beginning to maintain a professional rapport with patients, uphold patients’ dignity, and respect their privacy. Where such a relationship is poor, the physician's ability to make a full assessment is compromised and the patient is more likely to distrust the diagnosis and proposed treatment. When a patient is uncomfortable with the questions asked by a physician, it is their right to seek treatment from another physician. Likewise, if a physician is not comfortable with a patient, it is his or her right to discharge the patient from their practice. Government should not interfere.
The proponents of this legislation contend that the privacy of gun owners is their main focus. However, a physician inquiry of their patients about gun ownership is only one of a battery of questions that patients or the parents of pediatric patients are asked during routine examinations. Most of these questions asked by physicians are informational and an important part of a patient’s medical history, which remain private. Physicians are trained to counsel on many scenarios relating to a patient’s health and well being and are not inquiring about personal information as a basis to pass judgment or push any political agenda. Legal measures are already in place to ensure that the information patients share with physicians will be kept confidential. Patients are also NOT required to answer any questions they feel uncomfortable with, which alleviates any suggestion of invasion of a patient’s privacy.
Today, we have sent a letter to the sponsor of this legislation in the Florida House, Representative Jason Brodeur, as well as letters to both the House Speaker and the President of the Senate expressing the FMA’s opposition to SB 432 and HB 155. In addition to contacting your own legislators, we also urge you to contact the bill’s sponsors and register your opposition to this inappropriate expansion of government into the patient-physician relationship.
Madelyn E. Butler, M.D.,