When I saw the article a few months ago about the state of Florida actually making it a criminal act for physicians to ask about guns in the home during an office visit I shrugged it off.
Surely they can’t be serious!
But they were. In fact, the courts upheld the law. Read about it at the NY Times here.
Now, as a kid I shot guns. Lots of them. Automatics. Semiautomatics. 9mm’s. 22 caliber rifles and pistols. My father was preparing us for the apocalypse. Seriously. Someone, somewhere should have told him what he was doing was wrong. No one did.
My brothers and I were given guns for birthdays and Christmases. We were completely unprepared for the responsibility and honestly it is a miracle that no one got killed. We were not living on the wild frontier protecting the homestead from marauders and preventing the livestock from being torn to shreds by wild animals. We were silly kids with no serious sense of responsibility with cavalier attitudes about very dangerous weapons.
I completely respect patient privacy. No one has to answer any question I ask, ever. I also understand a paranoia and mistrust of the establishment to an extent. I grew up with it.
But asking about guns is relevant to healthcare. I don’t ask every patient, generally I stick to my pediatric and depressed patients.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe all guns should be destroyed, that no one should have access to them at all necessarily. It is not my place to decide, really, and certainly it is not my job to police it. What I do believe, however, is that we need to remind parents how serious these things are in the hands of kids and remind them protect those kids if needed.
There was a time I used to get indignant when patients lied to me or withheld information. Then a patient’s medical record, and myself, were subpoenaed during a divorce proceeding. What about physician, patient confidentiality? Can they even do that?!?! Yes. Yes they can. Nothing in writing is ever truly private. I understand the fear. I really do!
On the other hand, I take issue with a government entity criminalizing what I do or do not discuss during the course of an office visit. If I sexually assault a patient, hell put me away. Malpractice? Take my license. But at least respect my professional judgement enough to allow me to decide what counseling I need to give my patients.
What is next? A script for me to follow item by item or face jail time? Patients have every right refuse to answer a question or to ask me to not document their answer in the chart, but I should have every right to ask a question if it is relevant.
As always, I learn a ton from you all. I would love to hear your views and perspectives about this…