Doctors routinely talk to their patients about such personal issues as weight, smoking and drinking habits, sexual practices, psychological problems and a host of others. But if 57 lawmakers in the S.C. House – including six from York County – have their way, one issue will be off the table.
Those 57 state representatives have signed on to a bill that would make it illegal for doctors to discuss gun safety with their patients.
Sponsors of the bill say they don’t want patients to feel like their privacy is being intruded upon when they visit the doctor. Under the bill, except in relevant emergency situations, doctors would not be able to ask patients if they have guns.
Another stated motive of the bill is to protect doctors from any future federal law that might force them to ask patients about gun ownership. No such federal law, to our knowledge, has been proposed, but some S.C. lawmakers apparently would rather be safe than sorry.
Indeed, such a law would be intrusive. Almost as intrusive as a law requiring doctors to offer to show ultrasounds to women seeking an abortion in South Carolina.
We think lawmakers should respect the conditions of confidentiality between doctor and patient and give physicians the latitude they need to discuss their patients’ treatment with them privately. And if a doctor thinks it’s prudent to discuss gun safety in the home, especially when there are children involved, he or she should have the freedom to do so.
And if patients don’t like talking to their doctors about guns, they can find a new doctor.
But lawmakers also need to consider that these patient-doctor discussions might just save lives. In the past three months, three children in the state have been shot and killed in their homes in the kinds of accidents that doctors say they are trying to warn parents about.
As doctors note, it’s better to prevent an accident than to treat one.
For a Legislature that has plenty of important business to deal with, this bill ranks as the most worthless waste of time in memory. And that’s from a Legislature that has produced a lot of such bills.
We wonder why Reps. Raye Felder of Fort Mill, Deborah Long of Indian Land, Dennis Moss of Gaffney, Steve Moss of Blacksburg, Tommy Pope of York and Gary Simrill of Rock Hill felt compelled to support it.
Government should neither require nor prevent doctors from taking with patients about health issues. What they discuss should be between patient and doctor.
And if they want to talk about gun safety – or not – that’s their right, guaranteed under the First Amendment.