Family Physicians Condemn Intrusive Court Ruling on Patient/Physician Relationship

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Statement attributable to:
Reid Blackwelder, MD
American Academy of Family Physicians

“A decision on Friday by the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit deals a considerable blow to the patient/physician relationship, and deprives patients from the full range of preventive medical care they deserve.

“The 11th Circuit decision upholds a Florida law that prohibits physicians from asking patients and their families about guns in their homes and from noting a patient's gun ownership in the patient's medical record.

“Safety and injury prevention are crucial components of preventive medical care. Firearms education has been shown to decrease the likelihood of unintentional injury or death. The presence of firearms in the home, when improperly stored, can present a health danger to patients and others. Physicians must be free to have open and honest communication with patients about all aspects of health and safety.

“Make no mistake — this issue is much bigger than guns or gun ownership. This is about governmental intrusion on the patient/physician relationship. Laws that infringe on this relationship put the patient and their family’s health at risk. Physicians should not be prohibited by law or regulation from discussing with or asking their patients about risk factors that may negatively impact their health. The information and care provided should be consistent with the best available medical evidence on clinical effectiveness.

“A confidential relationship between the patient and physician is essential for the free flow of information necessary for sound medical care. In order to provide proper care, physicians should be able to gather any information that can have an impact on the health of their patients and families.”

Editor's Note: To arrange an interview with Dr. Blackwelder, contact Megan Moriarty, 800-274-2237, Ext. 5223, or

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 129,000 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits -- that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.

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