Monday, July 9, 2012

History taking getting too personal?

Whether or not you support the constitutional right to bear arms and what you believe the right to free speech covers, there is a definitely a controversy brewing in Florida over the "Gag Law."  A recent ruling states that Florida "cannot enforce a law that prohibits physicians from asking patients whether they own a gun because it infringes on their First Amendment right to free speech." The National Rifle 
Association (NRA) helped lobby for the law believing the second amendment was at risk and stating that the information obtained by healthcare providers would go into individuals' permanent health records. Physician groups argue they are trying to protect children and that assessing whether there is a gun in the home is necessary to provide education on gun safety, similar to bike and car safety. Other groups disagree. But what about adult patients? 

The question then becomes what information is necessary for healthcare providers? How is some of this and other social information used in relation to patients' overall health care? Some argue that some information should not be kept in their permanent medical record and do not understand the relevance. 

Would it be appropriate to assess a person with profound depression risk for suicide? Part of that assessment would include assessing for a plan, access to methods and ability to carry it out.  How about a patient that has substance abuse issues - is it appropriate to ask about the use of drugs and alcohol? Sexual orientation, partners? You get the point...

As an ACNP I understand the concept of history taking but I also understand the need for being respectful of sensitive information. Of course many patient's do not share everything with healthcare providers out of fear, or stereotyping or some sort of recourse. Will this situation in Florida have the effect they are looking for - preventing unintentional firearm accidents? I'm not sure. But I do know that constitutional rights are polarizing topics and it seems that most sit on one side or the other. Regardless of your personal beliefs on firearms or free speech, when it comes to caring for patients, the patient must remain central in order to be a true advocate.


  1. Great blog! Great thoughts! Thank you for writing about important issues to nurses. As a new resident of Florida I was very surprised when I read the news story on this law. Next, I won't be able to ask my patients if they might be at risk for HIV. Sigh.... We will keep up the good fight, for our patients' sakes.

  2. Owning a gun has nothing to do with health care IMHO.
    It is neither the physician's need nor right to know.
    -Discuss- :)