A group of Florida physicians opposed to a controversial new state law that muzzles what they are allowed to discuss with patients about gun ownership is hoping that a court will overturn the law and rule that it interferes with their free-speech rights.
The law at issue is actually a toned-down version of an earlier proposal that would have permitted both criminal penalties and multimillion-dollar fines to be imposed on physicians who ask patients or patients' family members about gun possession or the presence of guns in the home. Florida psychiatrists and other physicians voiced strong concerns about how this would interfere with a potentially important element of the doctor-patient relationship, since this type of knowledge can be crucial in preventing accidental, or even deliberate, injuries or deaths. While the state's leading newspapers joined physicians in opposition, both houses of the Florida legislature passed the bill by wide margins, though with language that was not as restrictive as the orignial version. The compromise allows physicians to ask about gun ownership only if this information "is relevant to the patient's medical care or safety or the safety of others." The most severe penalties were also removed, though physicians can be reported to the state medical board if they are accused of violating the law.
Read more about the Florida gun law and psychiatrists' reaction to it in Psychiatric News at http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/46/5/16.3.full and http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/46/10/15.1.full.