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AMA Supports Blocking Illegal Florida Gun Gag Law

For immediate release:
Nov. 5, 2012

Condemns governmental intrusion into the patient-physician relationship

CHICAGO - The American Medical Association (AMA) today filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the State of Florida’s attempt to revive a law preventing doctors from asking patients and families about guns in the home. The brief condemned government-sponsored censorship of private medical discussions between patients and physicians.

The AMA asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to uphold a federal court decision from Sept. 2011 that ruled Florida’s ‘gun gag law’ was unconstitutional. In that ruling, the court stated that “this law chills practitioners’ speech in a way that impairs the provision of medical care and may ultimately harm the patient.”

“Lawmakers cannot insert the state into the patient-physician relationship by dictating, prohibiting, or threatening the open communication between patient and physician,” said AMA President Jeremy A. Lazarus, M.D. “The AMA will vigorously defend the patient-physician relationship and the free speech necessary for the practice of medicine.”

The AMA supports physician discussions with patients about firearm safety and risks to help them safeguard their families from accidents. Physicians rely on their expertise and training, supported by evidence-based medicine and professional guidelines to counsel patients about everyday risks, including unused seat belts, swimming pool hazards, household chemicals, tobacco and drug abuse. Studies show that patients who received physician counseling on firearm safety were more likely to adopt one or more safe gun-storage practices.

The state’s political interests do not justify a law that infringes on the patient-physician relationship and stifles relevant medical discussions in the exam room,” said Dr. Lazarus. “Open and  honest communication between patients and physicians is essential to medical care and must be protected from legislative gag orders.”

Nine medical specialty societies joined the AMA in filing today’s court brief, including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American College of Preventive Medicine,
American College of Surgeons, American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology and American Psychiatric Association.

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AMA Media Relations
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