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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Don’t Force Doctors Into Gun Control Decisions



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We are told constantly that we have to control medical costs. Then, we expand what is considered “health care.”

Latest example: Force doctors into decisions about gun permits. From a column in The Atlantic:

The American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians and U.S. Surgeon General nominee Vivek Murthy are calling gun violence a public health crisis. Physicians, including family doctors and general practitioners, are increasingly seen as a crucial link in the prevention chain.

It may be a crisis, but not of the kind we usually associate with public health, such as an epidemic caused by a virus. In other words, the causes of the problem are cultural, not medical.

No matter. Some now advocate that doctors become central in the decision about who can have concealed weapons permits. Why? Most gun killings aren’t perpetrated by those concealed weapons permits. Who cares?

“When you do a transportation physical, there are forms that ask about cardiac, respiratory, emotional, neurological, and psychiatric conditions,” Goldstein explained. “If, for instance, one has neuropathy, dementia, or a cardiac condition, you would want to know how severe it is. We could develop such forms [for concealed weapons permits] relatively quickly and educate providers about what the expectations are.”

But determining whether a person could be a danger with a concealed gun is much more a subjective question than the objectively testable question of whether a patient is in imminent danger of having a heart attack while driving.  

Again, who cares? Let’s put even more burdens on doctors than they already carry:

Although law enforcement has the last word in granting or denying a gun permit after taking into consideration a slew of factors, doctors are no doubt the most qualified to assess patients’ physical, mental, and emotional challenges. A 2013 Annals of Internal Medicine article argued that doctors can play various roles in the gun policy dialogue: from researchers and policy advocates to managers of patients’ fear of victimization.

What about privacy? What about malpractice lawsuits if a “medically certified” person kills someone with a gun?

Will health insurance have to pay for doctors to review their patient’s records and give an opinion?

Will applicants without a doctor, or a doctor not deemed qualified to opine on the question, have to get a physical or psychiatric exam from another doctor?

Will the decision be medical or ideological? And since the problem of gun violence isn’t about concealed carry permits, how long before doctors would have to sign off on anyone who wants to buy a gun?

The health care system’s ability to serve the actual health care needs of the American people is already strained to the tearing point. Leave doctors alone to do their real jobs. Stop health care imperialism.



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