Society

Doctors Ask Patients "Do You Own Guns?" As States Try To Pass Laws Banning The Question

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When Laura Lee Lukunich of Hampden Township, Penn., went for a routine checkup recently, she expected the usual round of sometimes awkward health-related questions from her doctor. But this time, she got a question that she wasn’t expecting, and she didn’t like it at all.

“Do you own guns?” the physician asked her. “Do you lock up those guns?”

“I was floored,” Lukunich told a local TV station. "I think the medical industry, if this is going to be a regular practice now, has gone over the red line."

Lukunich sees her doctor at PinnacleHealth’s Camp Hill facility where, a spokesperson said, the question has been asked of patients for years.

"That is a standard question that is in our questionnaire and is actually in questionnaires elsewhere, too. That's a common question for a health assessment," said Dr. Elizabeth Wolff, an associate medical director at PinnacleHealth.

"What does that have to do with my medical? I don't see the association," Lukunich said. "I would like to know what can we do to stop this because it is inappropriate in a medical office."

The question has become so widespread, in fact, that Florida passed a law prohibiting doctors from asking about gun ownership. But a federal court struck down the law last year as unconstitutional.

Despite the Florida court defeat, Ohio is now considering a similar law, banning doctors from asking whether a patient owns guns.

“We ask many questions about safety,” said Wolff. “Owning a gun and having a gun in the house is just one of many questions that we would ask along those lines."

Indeed, statistics show that guns are a health issue, especially for kids. In 2008 and 2009 alone, 5,740 children died from gunfire, 299 of them under age 10. And 8,162 more kids suffered gun injuries but survived.

In striking down the Florida law, the court wrote, “This law chills practitioners’ speech in a way that impairs the provision of medical care and may ultimately harm the patient.”

SOURCES: WHTM TV, Columbus Dispatch

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