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Health News Florida

Court Again Upholds 'Docs vs. Glocks' Law

Rejecting constitutional arguments, a federal appeals court Monday again upheld a controversial Florida law that restricts doctors from asking questions and recording information about patients' gun ownership.

The 82-page ruling by a panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was the third time the court has upheld what became known as the "docs vs. glocks" law.

After a July ruling by a three-judge panel, opponents of the 2011 law asked for the full appeals court to take up the issue. Instead, the same three-judge panel issued a revised ruling Monday that unanimously backed the law.

"The act seeks to protect patient privacy by restricting irrelevant inquiry and record-keeping by physicians on the sensitive issue of firearm ownership and by prohibiting harassment and discrimination on the basis of firearm ownership,'' said Monday's ruling, written by Judge Gerald Tjoflat and joined by judges L. Scott Coogler and Charles Wilson. "The act does not prevent physicians from speaking with patients about firearms generally. Nor does it prohibit specific inquiry or record-keeping about a patient's firearm-ownership status when the physician determines in good faith, based on the circumstances of that patient's case, that such information is relevant to the patient's medical care or safety, or the safety of others."

Wilson wrote a dissent in July that said the law violates the First Amendment rights of physicians.

The ruling Monday left open the possibility of First Amendment challenges that deal with how the law is applied to specific physicians.

"Though the act applies in only a small number of circumstances, when it does apply it plays an extremely important role in protecting patients,'' the ruling said. "The act is not a legislative revolution, but it does not need to be. It narrowly protects patients in a focused manner in order to advance the state's compelling interest in protecting the Second Amendment's guarantee to keep and bear arms and patients' privacy rights in their medical records, exactly the sort of tailoring strict scrutiny requires. Those are rights that must always be protected in ways big and small."

The law, which drew heavy opposition from physicians before passing, includes a series of restrictions on doctors and other health providers.

As an example, it seeks to prevent physicians from entering information about gun ownership into medical records if the physicians know the information is not "relevant" to patients' medical care or safety or to the safety of other people.

 

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