If you have a gun in your home, can doctors be allowed to refuse you treatment?
At least one federal judge thinks so, and she has issued a permanent injunction against a Florida law that would have forced doctors to provide their service.
Last year, Florida passed the “Firearm Ownership Privacy Act,” which bars doctors from asking patients about guns in the home, “unless the practitioner in good faith believes the information is relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety” and would impose sanctions if doctors “unnecessarily harass a patient about firearm ownership.”
The law was passed after an Ocala, Fla., couple complained that a doctor had asked them about guns and after they declined to answer refused to see them anymore.
But U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke had issued a temporary injunction after three doctors sued the state, claiming the “gag order” on talking to their patients about guns was an infringement of free speech and the doctor-patient relationship.
The resulting legal battle became known as the “Docs vs. Glocks” case.
The doctors were backed in the case by various physicians organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Washington-based Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
The National Rifle Association, however, which helped push the law through the legislation, was barred by the judge from participating in the lawsuit, as Cooke claimed the state was fully capable of defending itself.
In a ruling issued late last week, Cooke decided for the doctors and made her injunction against the law permanent.
“The state, through this law, inserts itself in the doctor-patient relationship,” Cooke wrote in her 25-page ruling, “prohibiting and burdening speech necessary to the proper practice of preventive medicine, thereby preventing patients from receiving truthful, non-misleading information. … This it cannot do.”
Cooke asserted furthermore that the anti-harassment language of the bill is too vague and “does not provide fair notice as to what range of conduct it prohibits.”
Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center, celebrated the decision.
“Guns in the home are a proven deadly risk,” Gross said in a statement. “The government cannot tell us or our doctors that we are prohibited from discussing the deadly risks posed by guns.”
Florida Governor Rick Scott’s spokesman, Lane Wright, told the Palm Beach Post that the governor was considering whether or not to appeal the decision, but Rep. Jason Brodeur, a Republican who sponsored the bill, and the Florida Senate’s general counsel, Craig Meyer, both said they believed Scott would appeal.