The conversations doctors are allowed to have with their patients regarding guns and other firearms, if any, are the central part of a new ruling overturning most aspects of a highly controversial law that has undergone several appeals and reversals since its inception in 2011.
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The law states that healthcare providers and facilities could not ask about whether a patient owns firearms unless the provider believes that this particular information is relevant to patient safety. It also stated that healthcare providers could not put information about patient gun ownership or firearm use in the patient record, and that providers cannot deny service to patients who own guns.
The most recent ruling overturned the law, allowing physicians to ask about gun ownership, to advise patients about gun safety and to document information, but the provision that health care professionals cannot refuse care to gun owners was upheld.
The Firearms Owners' Privacy Act applied to physicians, as well as other healthcare providers and promised hefty financial and professional penalties for violations.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has praised the recent court ruling, stating that physician discussion of firearms is an important patient safety issue. Several other major medical organizations joined the AMA in urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to uphold a lower court decision that ruled the law unconstitutional.
Among the issues that have been brought up is the fact that there is a grey area when it comes to deciding if a conversation about guns is relevant to the care and safety of a patient.