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Legal Fight Takes Shape over Guns and Doctors Law

6:11 PM, Jun 3, 2011   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida pediatricians are preparing to challenge a new law just signed by Gov. Rick Scott that bans doctors from asking patients if they own a gun.

Pediatricians believe it is unconstitutional to prohibit them from discussing gun ownership with their patients.  They say it intrudes on the doctor-patient relationship and those private conversations.

The law also tells doctors not to record any information about guns into a patient's health file and not to discriminate against patients for their gun ownership.

Supporters of the legislation argue doctors should not pry into people's personal lives or push an anti-gun political agenda.

Pediatrician Beth King is disappointed with the new law.  She says it puts her in a bind.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends protecting kids from harm, focusing on child safety and that includes making sure that guns are stored properly in a locked cabinet.  So do I do what my professional organization recommends is good medicine or do I follow the law and not ask about guns."

The law does give doctors some latitude to bring up the subject of guns in the home if they think it's relevant to a patient's medical care or safety.

Dr. King says she's not prying into her patients' personal lives if she asks about gun ownership.  She believes there appropriate situations to ask about guns in the home.

"As pediatricians we do more than just give shots and treat ear infections.  We ask about pool safety.  If you have a pool, is there a fence around it.  We ask about car seats.  For teenagers, we ask about smoking and those kinds of things.  So it falls into the realm of what we call 'anticipatory guidance' where we try to anticipate problems before they happen to keep kids healthy and out of harm's way."

The Florida Chapters of the American Academy of Pediatricians is teaming up with two other pediatric groups, and the Brady Center in Washington, D.C., to challenge the new law in court.

First Coast News

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