The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta ruled against Florida’s Firearms Owners’ Privacy Act Thursday, finding it unconstitutional and stating that it infringed upon doctors’ freedom of speech.
The act banned Florida doctors from asking patients about gun ownership except when the information was relevant to a patient’s medical care or the safety of others. The act also prohibited doctors from noting firearm ownership information in a patient’s medical record.
“As part of their medical practices, some doctors routinely ask patients about various potential health and safety risks, including household chemicals, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, swimming pools and firearms,” the ruling said.
AOA opposition to law
The foundation of osteopathic medical practice is the treatment of the whole patient and the use of preventative medicine. A strong physician-patient relationship is based on open communication, which takes into account multiple factors that weigh on an individual’s overall health.
This led the AOA to oppose the enactment of this law, which interferes with the physician-patient relationship and has the potential to cause harm to patients and their families. The AOA also joined several national medical organizations in submitting an amicus brief in support of the appellate court striking down the law.
Going forward, the case will go back to U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke in Miami for a ruling that follows the Eleventh Circuit’s direction, AP reports, noting that the case may also be appealed to the Supreme Court.
In 2013, the AOA House of Delegates passed several resolutions supporting a physician’s right to discuss guns with patients. The AOA also encourages all physicians to educate families in the safe use and storage of firearms.