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Proposed Law would Ban Docs from Asking if Patient Owns Gun

6:02 PM, Jan 14, 2011   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A state lawmaker has filed a bill that would ban doctors from asking their patients if they have a gun in the home.

Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, said he has heard of a number of cases in which doctors asked their patients that question, which he thinks should be off limits.

"What we don't want to do is have law-abiding firearm owners worried that the information is going to be recorded and then sent to their insurance company," he said. "If they're on Medicaid maybe it's sent to the government.  If the overreaching federal government actually takes over health care, they're worried that Washington, D.C. is going to know whether or not they own a gun and so this is really just a privacy protection."

Under the legislation, a doctor could face a fine of up to $5 million or be sent to prison for up to five years for asking about guns in the home.

The restriction would apply to conversations with adult patients or the parents of child patients.

Brodeur says he's concerned about doctors asking patients about guns in the home and then allowing that information to get into the hands of the government or insurance companies.

He says he's trying to protect people's privacy.

"This is happening here and there and people maybe haven't reported it before and so lots of incidences had come forward in the past and more so are coming forth now," said Brodeur.

But Jeff Scott, a spokesman for the Florida Medical Association said pediatricians, for instance, may ask to educate patients about firearm safety. 

"There are circumstances in which a physician may need to know, to help a psychiatric patient who may be dangerous to themselves, the question about whether a patient owns a gun is very important."

The Florida Medical Association strongly opposes the bill.  "A doctor should know if a patient has a gun in the house, especially if a patient is having mental problems or if there are children in the home," said Scott.

Pediatricians agree that they have a responsibility to discuss issues affecting a child's safety.

There currently are no restrictions on conversations between doctors and their patients, said Scott, adding that it would set a dangerous precedent if the government started dictating what issues were appropriate in medical conversations.

 

First Coast News

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