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Debate simmers over doctors asking about guns
hamptonroads.com ^ | February 9, 2013 | Amy Jeter

Posted on 02/09/2013 7:12:07 PM PST by Tailgunner Joe

Do you have a gun in your home?

For some, that's a loaded question - particularly when asked by a doctor.

A debate is simmering over when and whether physicians should be allowed to talk to their patients about firearms.

Doctor groups say physicians are obligated to warn their patients about guns along with other health risks, such as riding in a car without wearing a seat belt. However, gun rights advocates balk at what they see as a needless invasion of privacy and blatant attempt at gun control advocacy.

State and federal lawmakers are weighing in.

President Barack Obama's plan to reduce gun violence says that doctors should be permitted to ask about firearms in a patient's home and safe storage of the guns "especially if their patients show signs of certain mental illness or if they have a young child or mentally ill family member at home."

The plan also seeks to clarify that the Affordable Care Act doesn't "prohibit or otherwise regulate communication between doctors and patients, including about firearms." More guidance on the issue is forthcoming, the administration says.

Earlier this month, Kansas legislators introduced a bill barring doctors other than psychiatrists from inquiring about firearms in the home when asking about a patient's personal information and medical history.

Florida passed a similar law in 2011. A federal judge blocked it last year, citing a violation of physicians' First Amendment rights. The ruling has been appealed.

No one has taken up the issue in Virginia yet.

Local doctors say they object to laws that intrude on the relationship between a physician and a patient.

"The patient-physician relationship should be a safe and even sacred relationship where the patient feels safe, feels comfortable in discussing anything they need to discuss," said Dr. Christine Matson, the chairwoman of Eastern Virginia Medical School's department of family and community medicine. "If there are constraints in terms of what I can ask, that also limits the doctor-patient relationship. I don't think government ought to go there."

Matson asks her patients about guns during their routine check-ups. She gives them a seven-page questionnaire that includes a section called "Behaviors that may put your health at risk" with questions about tobacco, alcohol, drugs and environmental toxins, among other subjects.

"Are there guns in your home?" is on page three, between "Ever forced to have sex?" and "A working smoke detector?"

Matson said the screening helps primary care doctors take an active role in promoting health and disease prevention, rather than just reacting to injuries and illnesses that already exist.

"I would say strongly that anything that confers risk is a valid part of the discussion with the physician," she said.

Patients rarely, if ever, bristle at the question, Matson said.

Other Hampton Roads doctors said the same, pointing out that their query comes along with others about equally sensitive subjects, such as illegal drugs and sexual preference.

"It's just what we do as doctors," said Dr. Phillip Snider, a family physician with Amelia Medical Associates in Norfolk. "We poke and prod in places that people don't enjoy."

Still, some people - including Charlie Pike - think that asking about firearms in the home goes too far. The 29-year-old Chesapeake resident has a concealed-weapon permit and wears a gun most days - including to medical appointments.

Pike's doctor asked about hunting after he saw the gun, and Pike was happy to chat. He would have been less responsive to questions about how many firearms he owned and how he stored them, however.

"It's not any of his business if firearm ownership is not related to the visit," said Pike, a production designer.

Doctors say the question gives them a chance to talk about gun safety with patients and their families. Snider lumps the conversation in with other "practical, low-cost, high-yield advice."

"It's stuff that needs repeating over and over," he said. "You tell kids to wear their bicycle helmets. You tell people to wear their seat belts. To use sunscreen, get adequate sleep, things like that."

Dr. John Harrington, a pediatrician, has asked his patients about guns and ammunition in their homes. The answers sometimes surprise parents.

"Kids tend to know a lot more than what parents believe," said Harrington, division director for General Academic Pediatrics. "You may think that you have something secure, when in reality it may not be that secure."

Most doctors recommend keeping guns unloaded, separate from ammunition and locked away.

Dr. Timothy Wheeler and other gun rights advocates wonder why they should listen to physicians' advice about weapons.

"They have absolutely no training about firearms in medical school or residency," said Wheeler, director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a project of the Second Amendment Foundation. "Doctors and doctor organizations have consistently refused for the last 20 years to work with the real experts in firearms safety, groups like the NRA, groups like the NRA's state-affiliate gun owner organizations, groups like the National Shooting Sports Foundation."

Snider said his advice comes from his own experience handling guns when he was younger.

Harrington said the topic is tricky because there's not a lot of new research. Federal health agencies have been banned from studying gun violence since the mid-1990s because of concerns about using taxpayer money on a politicized topic.

The Norfolk pediatrician said his suggestions to families follow universal themes that apply with other child safety measures: If you make something less accessible, it's less likely to be used inappropriately.

However, Harrington said: "I would rather have evidence to go by, like I have with vaccines."

Dr. Firoza Faruqui takes her cue from guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics. When talking to patients' families, she cites the group's statistics showing that firearms in homes are more likely to harm family members or friends than to be used in self-defense.

Faruqui, a pediatrician with the Hampton Roads Community Health Center in Portsmouth, also tells families the academy's stance on the best way to avoid gun-related injuries in children: have no firearms in their home. She knows parents could be offended by such a suggestion, just as they could be offended by the notion that their smoking harms the health of their children.

Parents usually don't get rid of their guns after talking with her, but they often take pains to store their weapons properly, she said.

For Faruqui, the message isn't political.

"I'm not trying to control any guns," she said. "I'm just trying to keep children safe."

But Wheeler says the American Academy of Pediatrics and other doctor groups have taken a side in the gun debate. He fears physicians will misuse patients' trust to advance a political agenda.

He also is concerned about what happens to the information that patients provide. Doctors said they document whether a patient's home has a firearm in the medical record, but that the file is protected by privacy laws.

The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, generally prohibits health workers from sharing patients' medical information without their permission. However, it allows disclosure under some circumstances.

Dr. Melissa Young, a New Jersey-based endocrinologist, worries that the government will elbow its way into doctors' conversations with patients about guns. It's already nosing into discussions about smoking, she said.

A federal program encouraging health providers to use electronic health records requires doctors to document the smoking status of at least 60 percent of their patients in their medical records. However, doctors do not report the data to the government.

Still, Young wonders if physicians may one day be required to report patient gun ownership information - even though the Affordable Care Act contains language saying it doesn't authorize the U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services to collect or maintain records on legal ownership or possession of firearms or ammunition.

"I'm not against the physicians asking it. There are certain patients to whom the question has to be asked," Young said. "But I think that the answers to that need to stay within the physician's office."


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: ama; banglist; doctors; doctorsguns; guncontrol; pediatricians; pediatrics; physicians; secondamendment
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1 posted on 02/09/2013 7:12:11 PM PST by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe

First time I was asked that question by my doctor’s nurse I gave her a short lecture on the 2nd amendment and told her it was none of her business. When the doc came in I did the same and he was pretty sheepish, said he was a hunter and didn’t like that question either. They haven’t asked me since. They also used to ask me whether I was abused in the home to which I would respond that I was a trial lawyer and what did they think. They don’t ask that question either. I just considered it a teaching moment.


2 posted on 02/09/2013 7:15:49 PM PST by Mercat (Never laugh at live dragons)
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To: Tailgunner Joe

and now publik skoolz are prying too


3 posted on 02/09/2013 7:15:49 PM PST by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Doctor groups say physicians are obligated to warn their patients about guns along with other health risks, such as riding in a car without wearing a seat belt.

I don't recall that being in the Hippocratic oath.

4 posted on 02/09/2013 7:16:26 PM PST by E. Pluribus Unum (TYRANNY: When the people fear the politicians. LIBERTY: When the politicians fear the people.)
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Just say no. Is it illegal to lie to your health provider? Maybe not yet, but wait for single payer.


5 posted on 02/09/2013 7:17:21 PM PST by andyk (I have sworn...eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.)
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To: Tailgunner Joe; Art in Idaho; NewCenturions; Sioux-san; Youaskedforit; KirbDog; TeĆ³filo; mojo114; .
+

Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:

Add me / Remove me

Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of general interest.

6 posted on 02/09/2013 7:18:46 PM PST by narses
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To: Mercat

We’re you trying t o say that it’s a given that trial lawyers were abused as children? That would explain a lot, indeed.


7 posted on 02/09/2013 7:19:16 PM PST by Mamzelle
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To: Tailgunner Joe; Pat4ever; RIghtwardHo; Reaganite Republican; Clintons Are White Trash; ...
+

Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:

Add me / Remove me

Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of general interest.

8 posted on 02/09/2013 7:19:34 PM PST by narses
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Just say no. It’s none of your doctors business.


9 posted on 02/09/2013 7:19:50 PM PST by NoGrayZone (For evil to triumph it is only necessary for good men to do nothing.)
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To: Tailgunner Joe

The Veterans Affairs health providers ask it at every turn recently. I’ve been using that system most of the time since 1983 and I was never asked about firearms until a year or two ago. Why doesn’t this administration trust veterans?


10 posted on 02/09/2013 7:20:12 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet (I'll raise $2million for Sarah Palin's presidential run. What'll you do?)
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To: Tailgunner Joe

The proper response all all this prying about guns, and habits is to give them the replies they want.

Do you own guns? No

Do you drink, smoke? No

Just lie.. and make their little big brother program a bunch of useless data.


11 posted on 02/09/2013 7:20:15 PM PST by eXe (Si vis pacem, para bellum)
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To: Tailgunner Joe

The overwhelming majority of doctors do not want to be Obama’s gun grabbing spy deputies. However, an overwhelming number of trial lawyers provide aid and comfort to gun grabbing Democrats. Hate a lawyer, if you want to.


12 posted on 02/09/2013 7:22:01 PM PST by Mamzelle
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To: Tailgunner Joe

None of your business doc. If I’m ever asked. Never have been yet.
I would probably give him a lecture on the constitution if pressed further.

The other thing I refuse to give is my SS#. I tell them ‘not in this day of identity theft’. And they haven’t press it yet.


13 posted on 02/09/2013 7:24:09 PM PST by Vaquero (Don't pick a fight with an old guy. If he is too old to fight, he'll just kill you.)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
"The patient-physician relationship should be a safe and even sacred relationship where the patient feels safe, feels comfortable in discussing anything they need to discuss," said Dr. Christine Matson,...

With the advent of filing medical records in a Federal database that is all over, doc. Questions about firearms are only one of a thousand reasons why. It is what it is.

14 posted on 02/09/2013 7:25:33 PM PST by TigersEye (The irresponsible should not be leading the responsible.)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
"It's just what we do as doctors," said Dr. Phillip Snider, a family physician with Amelia Medical Associates in Norfolk. "We poke and prod in places that people don't enjoy."

Doctors are agents of the federal government now.

15 posted on 02/09/2013 7:27:44 PM PST by Vince Ferrer
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To: E. Pluribus Unum

Don’t want to rain on your parade, but
the Hippocratic oath is NOT taken anymore.
The only oath is to the state with a promise to abide by the
decisions of the DeathPANELS (which of course
do not apply to Moslem or Congress or their families).


16 posted on 02/09/2013 7:29:58 PM PST by Diogenesis (De Oppresso Liber)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Because some of them believe in freedom and the Constitution?


17 posted on 02/09/2013 7:31:04 PM PST by RushIsMyTeddyBear (Great vid by ShorelineMike! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOZjJk6nbD4&feature=plcp)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
"For some, that's a loaded question - particularly when asked by a doctor. "

I HAVEN'T BEEN BACK TO SEE THE QUACK SINCE.

18 posted on 02/09/2013 7:31:13 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Just tell your quack that you are going to put him/her on the Che-to-b-shot-list.


19 posted on 02/09/2013 7:34:59 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Do you have a gun in your home?

When asked by a Doctor or healthcare provider the answer is
“Sorry that question is not relevant to my healthcare, next one please”


20 posted on 02/09/2013 7:38:56 PM PST by SECURE AMERICA (Where can I sign up for the American Revolution 2013 and the Crusades 2013?)
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