Physician Heal Thyself on Guns

by Wesley J. Smith

The medical technocracy and our rulers want doctors to expand their jurisdictions to include gathering information about guns in the home, including apparently, from children.

This is an example of what I call health hegemony, that is, expanding the borders of the medical sphere to include issues that actually sound in social policy. 

Guns may or may not present a safety hazard in the home. Doctors are not trained experts in their proper storage and use. Practice guidelines that urge physicians to discuss guns seek to harness the physician’s authority to the ongoing campaign to promote certain public and social policies.

Florida fought against the health hegemony by passing a law restricting doctors from asking patients about guns in many situations. Some doctors sued, claiming infringement on their freedom of speech.

Now, a Federal Court of Appeals just confirmed the law’s constitutionality. From the decision in Wollschlaeger v. Florida:

The Act seeks to protect patients’ privacy by restricting irrelevant inquiry and record-keeping by physicians regarding firearms. The Act recognizes that when a patient enters a physician’s examination room, the patient is in a position of relative powerlessness. The patient must place his or her trust in the physician’s guidance, and submit to the physician’s authority. In order to protect patients, physicians have for millennia been subject to codes of conduct that define the practice of good medicine and affirm the responsibility physicians bear.

In keeping with these traditional codes of conduct—which almost universally mandate respect for patient privacy—the Act simply acknowledges that the practice of good medicine does not require interrogation about irrelevant, private matters…

The Act simply codifies that good medical care does not require inquiry or record-keeping regarding firearms when unnecessary to a patient’s care.

The medical technocrats are unhappy. From a Tampa Times column:

“We strongly disagree with the 11th Circuit’s decision. It is an egregious violation of the First Amendment rights of pediatricians and threatens our ability to provide our patients and their families with scientific, unbiased information,” said Dr. Mobeen Rathore, president of the Florida chapter of the AAP, the Florida Pediatric Society.

Except “unbiased sciencitic information” isn’t what the push to get doctors to gather information about guns in the home is all about.

Back to the FPS statement:

“This dangerous decision gives state legislatures free license to restrict physicians from asking important questions about health and safety that are vital to providing the best medical care to patients.” Added Dr. James M. Perrin, president of the national group: “State legislatures should not stop physicians from practicing good medicine. This law has a chilling effect on life-saving conversations that take place in the physician’s office.

Physician heal thyself. The NRA knows better how to keep and use guns safely than do doctors.

This is an example of the law of cause and effect in action. If the medical technocracy would stop trying to harness the practice of medicine to promote liberal social policy, conservative states would not react by passing defensive and (perhaps) constitutionally questionable laws.