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Professional News
AMA Condemns Florida Gun Law as Intrusion Into Medical Care
Psychiatric News
Volume 46 Number 14 page 10-10

The AMA House of Delegates at its June meeting affirmed that the AMA vigorously defends the physician-patient-family relationship and actively opposes state or federal efforts to interfere in the content of communication in medical care between physicians and their patients.

And, the delegates said, the AMA will support litigation that may be necessary to block the implementation of newly enacted state or federal laws that restrict the privacy of physician-patient-family relationships or that violate the First Amendment rights of physicians in their practice of medicine.

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Presiding over a debate of the House of Delegates at the AMA's annual meeting are Jeremy Lazarus, M.D. (right), then speaker of the house, and Andrew Gurman, M.D., then vice speaker. Lazarus is now president-elect of the AMA, and Gurman is speaker. 

Credit: Mark Moran

The house approved, with widespread support and little opposition, a resolution titled "Government Interference in Patient Counseling" that is a strident defense of physicians' right to discuss issues that they regard as important to patient care.

The resolution is in response to a controversial new Florida law that restricts what physicians are allowed to discuss with patients about gun ownership. That law is a toned-down version of an earlier proposal that would have permitted both criminal penalties and multimillion-dollar fines to be imposed on physicians who ask patients or patients' family members about gun possession or the presence of guns in the home.

Florida psychiatrists and other physicians have voiced strong concerns about how this would interfere with an important element of the doctor-patient relationship, since this type of knowledge can be crucial in preventing accidental, or even deliberate, injuries or deaths (Psychiatric News, March 4).

Child psychiatrist and APA treasurer David Fassler, M.D., testifying during AMA reference committee hearings on the resolution, called restrictions on physicians' ability to ask about access to firearms an "outrageous intrusion" into the practice of medicine.

"Physicians must be able to ask any clinically relevant question in the evaluation and treatment of patients," Fassler said. "As a child and adolescent psychiatrist, I have an obligation to assess potential safety issues in the home, which often includes discussion of gun ownership, access, and storage. It's troubling that proposals that would limit my ability to ask such questions and document the answers are receiving serious consideration—€”and, in the case of Florida, favorable legislative action.

"If and when enacted, such initiatives would have a chilling effect on the doctor-patient relationship," Fassler said.

Information about the resolution approved by the House is posted at <www.ama-assn.org/assets/meeting/2011a/b-annotated-a-11.pdf>.10_3.inline-graphic-1.gif

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Presiding over a debate of the House of Delegates at the AMA's annual meeting are Jeremy Lazarus, M.D. (right), then speaker of the house, and Andrew Gurman, M.D., then vice speaker. Lazarus is now president-elect of the AMA, and Gurman is speaker. 

Credit: Mark Moran

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