Nav: Home

ACP applauds overturning Florida ban on physicians counseling patients on gun safety

February 17, 2017

Washington (February 17, 2017) The American College of Physicians (ACP) applauds Thursday's federal appeals court decision that overturned a Florida state law that barred doctors from counseling patients about reducing injuries and deaths from firearms.

"This is a huge victory for patient safety, and for physicians' First Amendment rights" said Dr. Nitin Damle, MD, MS, MACP, ACP's president. "It clearly establishes that physicians have the right under the Constitution to freely discuss with their patients ways to prevent injuries and deaths, including those associated with having unsecured firearms in their home."

The ruling of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit said that doctors could not be threatened with losing their licenses for asking patients if they owned guns and for discussing gun safety because to do so would violate their free speech. ACP strongly opposed Florida's Firearms Owners Privacy Act and joined eight other medical specialty societies in signing an Amicus Brief urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to uphold a lower court decision that ruled the law unconstitutional. The plaintiffs, including the Florida Chapter of the American College of Physicians, individual Florida doctors, the Florida Pediatric Society/Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians, Florida Chapter, sued the state of Florida for its unconstitutional intrusion on physician's constitutional right to speak freely to patients about the risk of unsecured firearms in the home; the national ACP joined in an amicus brief to the court supporting the plaintiff's case.

"The Florida Chapter is delighted with the 11th Circuit's ruling, which upheld the principal that the government should not interfere in the doctor-patient relationship," said Jason M. Goldman, MD, FACP, governor of the Florida Chapter of ACP. "While the Chapter does not wish to impinge on the rights of gun owners, it has fought this legislation in the Legislature and in the courts because it is essential that physicians and patients have the right to an open dialogue, free from government restrictions. Yesterday's ruling is a victory for patients and the profession."

Dr. Goldman also cited past-chapter Governor Stuart B. Himmelstein, MD, MACP, who he said "has made a mission of protecting the First Amendment rights of both physicians and patients and who has been a leading advocate in this battle over the past six years."

The court's decision will help save many lives, said ACP. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence:
    * in 2010, unintentional firearm injuries caused the deaths of 606 people;

    * from 2005-2010, almost 3,800 people in the U.S. died from unintentional shootings; and

    * more than 1,300 victims of unintentional shootings for the period 2005-2010 were under 25 years of age.
Additionally, a June 17, 2014 article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine said, it is estimated that each year, firearms kill more than 33,000 people in the United State. These deaths include homicides, suicides, and unintentional fatalities. The number of non-fatal firearm injuries in the United States is more than twice the number of fatal firearm injuries, with 73,883 non-fatal firearm injuries documented in 2011.

ACP has long recommended that physicians ask about gun ownership as a normal part of screening patients, including it on a long list of health questions about drug and alcohol use, smoking, exercise and eating habits.

The College believes that constitutional issues addressed by the court decision are much bigger than guns. It affirms a basic constitutional principal that the government should not be allowed to tell physicians what they can and can't discuss with their patients, consistent with evidence-based standards of care.

In 2014, ACP underscored a list of nine recommendations on firearms-related violence and included preserving the rights of doctors to counsel their patients on preventing deaths and injuries from firearms. In this regard, state governments must also do their part, by not imposing restrictions on engaging such discussion with their patients, as Florida attempted to do.
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States. ACP members include 148,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.

American College of Physicians

Related Internal Medicine Articles:

Annals publishes annual updates in internal medicine
Annals of Internal Medicine, the flagship journal of the American College of Physicians (ACP), has published summaries of the most important medical studies published in 2016 in the fields of general internal medicine, cardiology, hematology, endocrinology, gastroenterology and hepatology, rheumatology, and perioperative, pulmonary, and geriatric medicine.
News from Annals of Internal Medicine April 7, 2015
In the next issue of Annals of Internal Medicine are: Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig come out on top among commercial weight loss programs; Physical therapy as effective as surgery for lumber spinal stenosis; and Leading internists call for more thoughtful use of CPR.
News from Annals of Internal Medicine March 31, 2015
Articles include: USPSTF reviews evidence to update recommendations on iron supplementation and deficiency screening in pregnant women; New hep C treatments are cost-effective for some patients, yet may exceed insurers' willingness to pay.
News from Annals of Internal Medicine March 24, 2015
The US Preventive Services Task Force concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against screening for thyroid dysfunction in nonpregnant, asymptomatic adults.
News from Annals of Internal Medicine Feb. 10, 2015
Using Lung Imaging Reporting and Data System (Lung-RADS) criteria developed by the American College of Radiology to interpret low-dose CT lung screening results may reduce false positives compared to the National Lung Screening Trial, but the trade-off is reduced sensitivity, according to an article published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
News from Dec. 23, 2014, Annals of Internal Medicine
The Dec. 23, 2014, issue of Annals of Internal Medicine includes 'Blood pressure drugs likely to prevent stroke and death in patients with mild hypertension' and 'Task force reviews evidence to update blood pressure screening recommendations.'
News from Dec. 16, 2014 Annals of Internal Medicine
This issue of Annals of Internal Medicine includes: 'Earlier detection could close the race gap on colon cancer deaths'; 'Emphysema on CT an important independent risk factor for death'; and 'Patient feelings about consent for use of personal medical data: It's complicated.'
News from Annals of Internal Medicine Dec. 8, 2014
This week's issue includes: 'Breast density notification laws substantially increase costs yet save few lives' and 'Institute of Medicine 'Dying in America' report sparks discussion and debate.'
News from Annals of Internal Medicine Dec. 2, 2014
This week's issue includes: 'Better glucose control in midlife may protect against cognitive decline later in life,' 'Patient zip code influences rehospitalization risk, regardless of hospital characteristics,' 'ER visits and costs may go down when physicians share patient health information, and 'Geographical variation in use of cancer-related imaging does not reflect overuse.'
News from Annals of Internal Medicine Supplement
The US Preventive Services Task Force found insufficient evidence to assess the benefits and harms of screening for vitamin D deficiency in asymptomatic adults.

Related Internal Medicine Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Crisis
There's no greater threat to humanity than climate change. What can we do to stop the worst consequences? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can save our planet and whether we can do it in time. Guests include climate activist Greta Thunberg, chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox, research scientist Sean Davis, food innovator Bruce Friedrich, and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...