Healthcare Business News

AMA joins friend-of-the-court brief in Fla. 'docs and Glocks' case

By Andis Robeznieks
Posted: November 5, 2012 - 5:15 pm ET

The American Medical Association and nine other medical specialty societies have filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing a Florida statute that prohibits physicians from asking patients and families about guns in their homes and from noting a patient's gun ownership in his or her medical record.

"Not only do physicians lose the right to express themselves freely, but their patients are deprived of the full range of medical care and professionalism that they could expect from their physicians," the brief stated.

In July, a U.S. District judge in Miami blocked enforcement of the law. The state of Florida appealed this decision. The brief filed by the medical societies is in opposition to Florida's appeal.

"Lawmakers cannot insert the state into the patient-physician relationship by dictating, prohibiting or threatening the open communication between patient and physician," Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, president of the AMA, said in a news release. "The AMA will vigorously defend the patient-physician relationship and the free speech necessary for the practice of medicine."

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The other organizations joining in the AMA filing are: the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American College of Preventive Medicine, the American College of Surgeons, the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Psychiatric Association.

In the release, it was noted that patients who received physician counseling on gun safety were likely to adopt one or more safe gun-storage practices.

"The state's political interests do not justify a law that infringes on the patient-physician relationship and stifles relevant medical discussions in the exam room," Lazarus added. "Open and honest communication between patients and physicians is essential to medical care and must be protected from legislative gag orders."

The original suit seeking to block the law was filed by the Florida chapters of the AAFP, the AAP and the American College of Physicians and six physicians, including Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger, who is listed as the lead plaintiff on the AMA brief. Wollschlaeger has been a member of the AMA House of Delegates governing body and is a former board member of the Florida Academy of Family Physicians.

In announcing the state's appeal this past July, Florida Gov. Rick Scott defended the law's constitutionality.

"This law was carefully crafted to respect the First Amendment while ensuring a patient's constitutional right to own or possess a firearm without discrimination," Scott said in an e-mailed statement. "I signed this legislation into law because I believe it is constitutional and I will continue to defend it."

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