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Florida Judge Restores Free Speech Rights to Physicians

Written by Gary North on July 6, 2012

In 2011, the state of Florida passed a law prohibiting physicians from discussing guns with their patients.

In the court system, communications between a physician and his patient are protected by law. The physician is not required to tell the state anything. He has the same immunity as a lawyer has.

Legislators in Florida decided that they would not only ignore this Constitutional immunity, they would prohibit the physician from talking about guns.

How these bananaheads thought they could get away with this is beyond me.  A judge has thrown out the law.

Physicians quite properly sued the state. They won in court.

The judge wrote this:

“What is curious about this law — and what makes it different from so many other laws involving practitioners’ speech — is that it aims to restrict a practitioner’s ability to provide truthful, non-misleading information to a patient, whether relevant or not at the time of the consult with the patient.”

The law was called the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act. “An Ocala couple complained that a doctor asked them about guns and they refused to answer. The physician refused to see them anymore.” That should be his right. If he does not want to treat someone, he should politely show them to he door.

The great thing about the free market is this (or should be): the right to refuse to make deals with anyone, for any reason. This principle has been under attack for 50 years.

The legislation was pushed by the NRA — the National Rifle Association.

The NRA has been shot down in mid-flight, like a duck in duck season. This is good. The right to keep and bear arms does not need a law prohibiting free speech to defend it.

The decision may be appealed. I think it will be shot down again.

The law is absurd. It seeks to apply a limitation on the state to an area of private, voluntary arrangements. It invokes the right of privacy — immunity from the state — to apply to physicians.

The law says doctors and other healthcare practitioners “shall respect a patient’s right to privacy and should refrain” from asking about gun ownership or whether people have guns in their homes.

We don’t need a law to protect us from nosy physicians. We can just say, “It’s none of your business, you liberal twit.” Then we can find a new physician. I know I would.

The Florida law is one more example of the Nanny State. This monster keeps invading our lives.

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23 thoughts on “Florida Judge Restores Free Speech Rights to Physicians

  1. This is a good law, writte mainly to protect gun owners from pediatricians who were conducting heavy interrogations of children so the pediatrician could tattle to the authorities and school officials. Far from protecting a patient doctor confidentiality, doctors felt free to disseminate this information any way they liked.

  2. Stick to medicine and keep guns out of it!!

  3. The problem with simply "finding a new doctor," as this author suggests, is that it's not always easy to do if (1) you're on Medicare – fewer doctors are accepting Medicare patients because of all the restrictions, low reimbursement rates, etc.; the difficulty in finding a doctor will only get worse, much worse under Obamacare/tax; or, (2) if you're in a rural or remote area, where there's not a doctor on every corner; or, (3) don't have health insurance and can't afford to pay privately – this problem will get worse if Obamacare/tax is still alive and well after Nov. 2012, as more doctors will be dropping out of the government reimbursement system and going to a strictly "private-pay" model.

  4. Another aspect of this is that a physician who suspects a patient is suicidal or violent may want to protect that person, or the people in their home from harm. Yes, I agree there are a bunch of liberal nuts who would like to see gun ownership as criminal, however, there are laws protecting that already. A physician is required by law to notify authorities if they suspect child abuse, spouse abuse or elder abuse… REQUIRED. Though I understand the NRA's position on it and some physicians have taken it too far, the vast majority of cases would fall in the opposite direction.

    My patients all know I hunt, shoot and I discuss it with them almost on a daily basis. I know who owns a gun and I always encourage them to be responsible, take classes and practice regularly. I know there are other docs who feel differently, but this law would restrict me from speaking MY mind as well. Sorry; I think it's screwed up. Glad its going.

    Then, again, I live in Texas, so I really con't care what happens in Florida… except in November, of course… ;)>

  5. sean murry says:

    I can take care of myself i need no friggin nanny.

  6. Bill in NC says:

    It's none of a doctor's business if an adult owns a firearm.

    I'm afraid I agree that many pediatricians would likely disseminate this information to anyone they chose.

    So be smart and answer 'no, of course not'

  7. What next? God help us.

  8. Max Penn says:

    The goverment has no business telling a doc to ask you anything about if you own a gun or car or a bottle of scotch. Soon you will get dropped for drinking a beer.

  9. Does anyone know of where I can find a list of politically libertarian leaning physicians who accept cash payment cheaper than insurance), who won't be participating the the federal government's medical record database (I think there's an exception for "country doctors"), and who presumably, being libertarians, would generally respect gun ownership rights?

  10. It’s a privacy issue. No one should have the right to ask about my guns with the implied threat that I may be categorized as a gun nut and end up in a database somewhere .

  11. Well we know how the courts work as well as the system. Funny how they can rule and say that the issue of privacy protects a woman and he physician with regard to contraception and abortion but totaly slam privacy and allow the federal government to have full access to medical records through Obama Care. Seems to me that the doctor is the best judge of what the hell is going on in a patients life and if it warrants a closer look to help someone over a thought of suicide or homicide so be it but that is a medical call. In fact there is no crime committed via a thought. How in Hell does the government have any possible power to curtain thought.

  12. You would think that harassing someone who is damned fed up with government intrusion and the sticky fingers in our pockets might think of shooting themselves would be counter productive to helping them get through it….. In fact it shows again that the premise of protecting some imaginary person from some maybe possibly threat is just a means to exert more control. But Hell I speak in common sense so don't listen to me. Nothing like that exists in the world anymore. Everyone is too busy getting spun up in the BS that the powers that be puke out to encite breaches of the peace…. After all it gives them more excuses to exert more control. Now am I the only one who sees this pattern????

  13. Yep doctors are now agents of the Government via Obama Care. Everything you do will become part of a government data base. They will know you inside and out. Since this is true the 5th Amendment applies. You don't have to tell them a thing. If they start poking around asking questions just take out your recorder, turn it on and aske them if the communications is protected by the Constitution and are they willing to sign a waiver stating it is not. The veteran's affairs have already been doing that. And if you tell your doctor you use say marijanua, bingo you can't own or purchase a firearms per the question on the 4377 Form. Think they won't do it, just give um a chance. Then go look at the idiot in the mirror…..

  14. Yep just look at them and grin like an idiot, don't say a word. Then find another doctor. Trouble is the government won't hesitate to run that doctor out of business and make you go to one who will tell them everything. Little by little and step by step. This is the nature of the "Beast". Jesus said, "spiritual wickedness in high places…". Any questions?????

  15. As a physician, I feel there needs to be some clarification for those who believe their pediatrician will “tattle” on them or “tell anyone they want” about their gun ownership. If any doctor were to share any such information with anyone else without the patient’s (or parent’s) consent, they are violating the very confidentiality that this nonsense law supposedly strengthens. In so doing, they are opening themselves up to fines and potential lawsuits for breach of confidentiality.

    There are only a handful of conditions when this confidentiality can be breached legally. The first is under a court order for records. The second is under conditions where you have made imminent threats to harm another individual by force (e.g., homicidal ideation). The third is when one is threatening one’s own life (e.g., suicidal ideation). I don’t necessarily agree with these conditions, and the way they are interpreted today by the courts, but thats what we have in place nationwide.

    So no, the purpose of doctors, particularly pediatricians, asking these questions is not to gather information for the government enforcers (they already know who owns the guns via the BATF paperwork you filled out when you bought it). This is not to say that their motives are always good or realistic, though.

    Pediatricians are taught in their training guns = bad. To them, there is no such thing as a “responsible gun owner” and every parent who owns a gun should be chastised until they get rid of it. Thy are more concerned by childhood injury and fatality by negligent discharge than by a burglar breaking and entering or kidnappers, regardless of how low the risk is. You can also consider this similar to the push, often against parental desires, of incessant vaccinations.

    In psychiatry, there is a concern over the use of guns in suicide, particularly among men, especially veterans. The VA hospital requires doctors to ask about firearm ownership, often even in non-psychiatric settings, as it is a risk factor for suicide. Again, not that I agree with the assumptions behind it, but thats what “justifies” the invasion of privacy.

    Those who are worried about finding an alternative provider, realize that a physician can neither report you to any authority simply for owning a gun, nor can he forcibly remove said fun from your possession. You may have to be clear and firm with him on your reasons and rights, but you do not have start looking for another provider unless you want to. By the same token, the physician is under no compulsion morally to continue to treat you if he feels there to be a moral conflict on his part. This applies not just to gun ownership, but vaccinations, sexual identity, abortion, etc. there have been many encroachments by the government upon this voluntary interaction, and the above law is just one example. However, you are no more obligated to see that physician than he is to see you.

    Personally, I enjoy discussing shooting and firearms with my patients. I also suggest they use them responsibly, put them away if they are having suicidal thoughts, enjoy the shooting sports if they are into that, teach their kids to respect firearms but not fear their ownership, etc. none of this is forced, and we could just as easily have been talking cars or sports or whatever.

    Government has no authority to intrude upon a voluntary interaction between two individuals. It can no more order me to NOT discuss guns with patients than it can order me TO discuss them and log the answers. if it has the authority to do one, it has the authority to do the other. I reject that notion both on the principle of freedom of speech as well as its obvious correlate, the freedom to not speak.

    This law is a bad law and further expands the reach of government. This is a pro-liberty ruling and in no way negatively affects the patient’s right to decline to discuss firearms with his physician. If you don’t want to talk about it, don’t.

  16. catchesthewnd says:

    What is not commonly know is that your medical information is no longer privileged information. All that is said and done in the doctors office is put in a federal data base said data base being accessible to ANYONE. Want to rent an apartment-your medical history is available. And whose to say that some crooked landlord isnt accessing these files for burglars.

  17. Robinothewood says:

    OBAMACARE is a BACK-DOOR GUN REGISTRY. OBAMACARE allocates funding to implement electronic health records. With this funding, doctors are incentivized to ask patients about gun ownership. Patients’ responses are entered into the database along with their personal and health information.

    After the Persian Gulf War, the FBI was given access to servicemembers’ health records, and *POOF* about 100,000 were declared ineligible to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights because they may have had PTSD.

  18. shavager says:

    Robinothewood is exactly right. Knowing that OWEbumbler care was about to be put into effect, those physicians who will BE FORCED by federal law to input YOUR medical records into a national data base for bureaucrats in DC to monitor YOUR medical decisions and make them for you in place of YOUR doctor, will also register YOU as a gun owner by proxy of medical services. I'm ALL FOR THIS BILL, contact Governor Rick Scott and encourage him to appeal this decision on the bill: rick.scott@eog.myflorida.com.

  19. Bill in NC says:

    The laws on doctor-patient confidentiality refer to medical information, not incidental data provided voluntarily.

    Whether or not you have firearms in the home would fall into the latter category (it would NOT be covered by HIPAA)

    All it takes is some state or local bureaucrat to declare that firearm data fall under your mandatory reporter requirements, and it could easily be collected under force of law.

  20. R Kelley says:

    We live in GA. Our pediatrician reminds us about gun safety. I often wondered what her motives were in asking. Turns out, her husband owns one of the largest online gun forums on the web! She's covering gun safety just because it's the right thing to do even as a pro-gun doctor. If GA were to pass such a ridiculous law, it would criminalize what is simply a pro-gun doctor encouraging safe gun practices in the home. You people who think a law curbing a doctor's free speech is good and proper are every bit as freedom-hating as the people who want to see our gun rights further eroded. If my doctor were anti-gun, I'd simply change doctors just like we did when an Internist scolded my wife for homeschooling our children.

  21. AD Roberts says:

    Why does freedom of speech only go one way. Why can a physician insist that you tell him about your guns and if you don't he refuses to treat you. There would be no problem if there were an abundance of doctors. But the foreigners are taking a lot of the slots in med school and a large number are going to be retiring after Obamacare hits the fan.

    I think that we are going to have to start recording our exams and if the doctor starts to pry into our private lives to impose his will on us, we will have another reason to file suit against this abuse of authority.

    If the interist had any sense at all, they would have known that public schools are run by bullies and the kids can only learn how to be victims of diversity training, sex education, and how to eliminate Christians from society.

  22. oldshooter says:

    If you read the law carefully, you will find that it does not prevent any private discussion with your patients, nor does it preclude asking about guns or other potential hazards in the home or workplace in the event you suspect suicidal or homicidal potential in your patient, or for some other clinical reason. It simply prohibits "fishing expeditions" seeking information about your patient's gun ownership in the absence of any clinical rationale. The law was written in response to the behavior of many misinformed (or perhaps politically motivated) doctors, especially pediatricians, in FL, who were asking intrusive questions about their patient's gun ownership, and then pushing the "AMA approved" BS regarding the alleged risk in having guns in the home (which is contrary to all the peer reviewed research on the topic). They were also keeping this information in their permanent patient records. While FL allows a confidential Doctor/Patient relationship, the patient records are not state specific, and would be available under various conditions to doctors (and sometimes others) in other states, including states like TX (I also live here) that do not offer such a private relationship before the law.

  23. oldshooter says:

    I know at least one in San Antonio, TX. Where do you live?