Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pro-Death Florida Legislators Run Amok

A physician determines that a patient, while not an imminent suicide risk, is a longer-term risk.  The patient has a history of impulsiveness, and under an acute stress might make a sudden and thoughtless decision to take his life.  The doctor inquires if the patient owns a firearm, and the patient answers in the affirmative.  The doctor advises the patient to get rid of the guns in the house so as to prevent any quick, irreversible decisions that might be made by the patient in an agitated state.

Someone in law enforcement finds about this and reports the doctor.  The physician is then arrested and convicted of violating Florida Bill 432.  He is then sentenced to five years in prison, and fined five million dollars.

I bet you think I am making this up, but believe it or not, this bill was actually proposed by members of the Florida state legislator, and similar proposals are planned by the NRA in several other states:

The bill would make it a felony for a physician or any medical worker to ask a patient or the patient's family whether they own a gun.  This might include prohibiting pediatricians from advising parents on gun safety issues when there are children in the house.

After a large protest from physicians, the bill was finally amended to offer an exception to the legislation that would shield doctors from prosecution in cases that involve mental health issues, such as the patient who is suicidal.  It then passed both Florida houses and is expected to be signed by the governor.

Now contrary to what you might think, I tend to be rather right wing on the subject of guns and gun control.  I want firearms to remain legal and available.  I worry far more about collective violence than random crime, since many more people have been killed by groups and by governments over the years than by criminals. 

The governments of Syria and Iran would have a lot more trouble convincing their troops to mow down political demonstrators if their troops were afraid that they might be fired upon by snipers on rooftops all over the city.  Think something like that could not happen here?  Probably not, but then again, there was this little incident at Kent State in the sixties that came pretty close.  And then there were all those lynchings in the South.

On the matter of doctors advising patients, however, I think the proposed legislation is completely insane.  Besides being a gross violation of free speech, accepted community standards of practice, and professional ethics, it has absolutely nothing to do with the Second Amendment. 

A therapist cannot force a patient to get rid of their guns, although I personally would refuse to treat any potentially suicidal patient who did not agree to do this. 

Even if patients agree, they could lie to the doctor, or go out some time later and purchase another gun.  One patient I know who killed herself checked "yes" on the application to purchase a handgun on the question that asked if she suffered from a mental illness.  They sold her the gun anyway.

Well, you might protest, you do not need a gun to kill yourself.  You could go to a bridge and jump off, or obtain some pills and overdose, or hang yourself in the closet.  What is so important about getting rid of guns?

The answer is that using a gun is quicker and easier than any other method, and usually more deadly.  Other methods take some minimal advance planning, so are unlikely to be employed impulsively.

I'll bet these legislators call themselves pro-life, too.

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