Florida: Physician, Shut Thy Mouth!

Our family has had the same pediatrician for almost a decade. I have the utmost respect for her. Over the years she has rendered excellent care to our 5 children and we literally trust her with our children’s lives.

I recall one instance where she sternly scolded me, took me by the hand and smacked it!  That was her reaction as she learned that I had been allowing one of our young children to ride an ATV alone, and without a helmet. I grew up doing it all the time. This is the rural South, it’s what we do! I saw no harm in it. But in her experience, it was a traumatic brain injury waiting to happen.

Her counsel in our case wasn’t to try to tell me how to raise my kids, or part of an anti-ATV agenda, but a legitimate concern for a child for whom she truly cared. She told me she had seen far too many of her young patients injured and killed on ATVs and didn’t want mine to be among them. Soon after, my almost overly cautious son had a very serious near-miss on the 4 wheeler. At that moment, I realized I should’ve listened to her, and we stopped allowing him on the ATV.

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In defending our freedoms, I think it’s very important that we do it in such a way that does not infringe upon the rights of others. A fine example of how not to defend the 2nd amendment is occurring in Florida where doctors are prevented by an NRA backed state law that prevents physicians from speaking about firearms with patients.

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The Orlando Sentinel reports:

Florida doctors, backed by the White House but opposed by state lawmakers and the powerful gun-owners’ lobby, are fighting for the right to talk to patients and their families about the hazards of keeping guns in the home.

They are especially concerned about mentally distressed patients who may pose a threat to themselves or others. But mostly, they want to talk with the parents of young children about safety measures to keep guns out of harm’s way and prevent accidental shootings.

“I remember talking to a mother who was not even aware that her spouse had a gun in the house, but the teenager knew it,” said Tommy Schechtman, a pediatrician in Boca Raton who has sued for the right to ask questions about gun safety. “I know she went back home and made sure everything was secured.”

But such consultations, including a routine safety checklist carried out by most pediatricians, run afoul of a 2011 state law promoted by gun lobbyists that prohibits doctors from asking about gun ownership unless it serves a clear medical purpose. And some doctors were surprised by a provision tucked into the new federal Affordable Care Act — also at the behest of the National Rifle Association — that they say could discourage discussions with patients about gun safety.

I understand that my fellow gun rights advocates in Florida pushed for this law with the best of intentions, but I sincerely believe they were wrong in doing so. For as much as I believe in the 2nd amendment, I also believe in the 1st. It’s bad form to promote our gun rights at the expense of the rights of others.

I recently learned that our pediatrician is married to a man who owns and moderates a very large online firearms forum. I always noted an absence of an anti-gun agenda with our pediatrician, I think now I know why. Though her position as a pediatrician and the wife of a gun enthusiast might make her the perfect doctor for rendering gun safety advice to her patients, in Florida she would be legally prevented from doing so.

If the State of Florida won’t interpose to protect an unborn child’s right to life in a doctor’s office, then it surely has no business telling doctors what they can ask or say to a patient regarding gun ownership and gun safety.

I realize that there are doctors out there who are anti-gun zealots. I’m sure some are using their position as a bully pulpit for preaching their anti-gun vitriol, but there are also doctors, such as ours, who are only interested in promoting safety. Doctors like ours need to be speaking to parents about gun safety in the home.

My biggest concerns aren’t over expression of political opinions, but with  government bureaucracies exploiting the doctor patient relationship to collect data and squash freedom. Laws should focus on limiting that, not on what a doctor is allowed to say to a patient.

While I don’t believe the government has the right to tell a doctor to keep quiet, I believe a patient does! My advice for those who find themselves with an anti-gun physician is to exercise their right to tell the doctor to butt out unless their offering literature on gun safety. If that doesn’t work, then it may be time to find another doctor –while you still can.

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