Academy to NRA

FPs Oppose Any Infringement on Ability to Counsel Patients

November 21, 2011 05:35 pm News Staff

The Academy has put the National Rifle Association, or NRA, on notice that the AAFP opposes legislation that would subvert open doctor-patient communication about gun safety.

In a letter to NRA President David Keene, AAFP Board Chair Roland Goertz, M.D., M.B.A., of Waco, Texas, said that the Academy and its more than 100,000 members are concerned about a Florida law enacted earlier this year that effectively bars physicians from discussing gun ownership or gun safety with their patients. The NRA supported passage of the law, which carries severe penalties for noncompliance.

"The AAFP is not against gun ownership," said Goertz in the letter, which arose from a measure the 2011 Congress of Delegates referred to the Academy's Board of Directors in September. "Family physicians share the desire of the NRA to keep families safe."

However, said Goertz, "The AAFP also values freedom of speech regarding the patient/physician relationship and the effectiveness of open communication between the patient and physician in improving and maintaining good health."

For that reason, he noted, the Board recently issued a policy highlighting the importance of such free-flowing communication, which reads, in part:

"The AAFP opposes legislation that infringes on the matter or breadth of information exchanged within the patient/physician relationship because of the potential harm it can cause to the health of the individual, family and community.

"Physicians should be free to have open and honest communication with patients about all aspects of health and safety. Physicians should be able to gather any information that can impact the health of their patients and their patients' families."