August 21, 2011

Firearms and the doctor's office

In another episode of 'they do things differently there ... ':

Standard patient question not taught in Australian medical schools:  do you own a gun?

Routine gun inquiry off limits for doctors in Florida


  1. geoffff6:31 PM

    I can't see the point of the question.

    "Do you own gun?"

    In Florida? Of course they own a bloody gun.

  2. geoffff3:37 PM

    A good thing too. The general carriage of concealed firearms makes for a more polite society.

  3. Yet they don't ask patients, as routine, whether they have alligators about their land.

  4. bruce7:33 AM

    Nurses in Australia (NSW) do in fact ask this question before entering a house. Home nurses assessing a new client ask 'Is there a gun in the house?'

    I've been a client and been asked. Also been a nurse!

  5. Bruce - how interesting; makes sense when actually entering a home, and I don't think it's widespread practice (eg, social workers?). I had a GP home visit some years ago, when I was too sick to move, but he did not inquire of my gun ownership.

  6. When I was reading that my first thought about the question being asked to patients was, what if they were showing signs of mental illness?

    Most patients who are having issues would present to a GP before being referred to a psych or other mental health professional. In America the amount of people owning guns is higher than I think is normal, so why not ask?

    Personally if I were a Dr I would prefer to get that question out of the way rather than try an establish the answer once finding out the patient was mentally unbalanced.

    That said, I'm not sure how many per 100 people this kind of situation would be relevant for to.

  7. geoffff8:35 PM

    Why not ask do you have a large sharp knife in your kitchen draw?

    I honestly don't get it.

  8. Yes Princess, all of that, indeed comes to mind, but they're taught this as a standard question to ask all patients, and it seems to either serve no particular purpose, or places a misplaced onus on doctors.

    One expressed concern in the article was the possibiltiy of a GP being sued if someone in the patient's household was accidentally shot (due to bad safety habits, we assume) ... but how (even in gun-totting America) can a doctor be expected to carry the burden of gun safety education? Notwithstanding that there are more guns in America than people, it's bizarre that any level of accountability has been placed on doctors for their patient's gun and ammunition etiquette. That the doctors think this is normal, they accept it as being a valid part of their health inquiries, is probably even more bizarre.

    Begs the question: what do they say to patients who own a gun? More so, if a patient is presenting as depressed or angry, or otherwise unstable, what does the GP do if that person answers "yes" to the gun question? Write it up in their notes? What else? They're not in any position to act over the potential of said gun to be used for harm.

    As Geoff said, it's as useful as asking if they have knives in their kitchen. Yes. And then what? The doctor can't do anything ... other than advise that the patient handle sharp implements with care, or not to play with any loaded weapons until they feel better.