Saturday, May 26 , 2018, 5:55 am | Fair 55º


Harris Sherline: White House Wrong to Enlist Doctors in Gun-Safety Efforts

Just how much personal information do we — the public, that is — want to give our doctors? In the past, there was probably very little that we were not willing to discuss with them, especially in the context of our health.

However, over time, the federal government has begun using our doctors to ask us questions that are none of their business — and to report their findings to some agency or bureaucracy in Washington.

The latest gambit into this foray into our personal lives is President Barack Obama asking doctors to help deal with guns.

The Weekly Standard noted in a Jan. 16 article that “according to a background briefing provided by the White House, President Barack Obama is asking doctors to help deal with guns.”

Here’s the relevant passage: “Preserve the rights of health-care providers to protect their patients and communities from gun violence: We should never ask doctors and other health-care providers to turn a blind eye to the risks posed by guns in the wrong hands.”

“Clarify that no federal law prevents health-care providers from warning law enforcement authorities about threats of violence.”

“Protect the rights of health-care providers to talk to their patients about gun safety.”

My question is: Exactly what is there about being a doctor that qualifies him or her to talk to patients about gun violence or safety?

This is just one more in a long list of stupid notions that people in government seem to have about people in general.

Having spent about seven years running a hospital and dealing with doctors, I seriously doubt that doctors will be willing to discuss such matters as gun safety with their patients, many of whom know a great deal more about guns that their physicians do.

Obama and his fellow government bureaucrats can ask, or direct, all they want, but I foresee only two results: 1) They, that is the doctors, won’t do it, or 2) Their patients will tell them it’s none of their business, especially if they know that the doctor is charged with the responsibility of reporting the information to some federal agency.

Do you have a gun at home? If you do, will you be willing to tell your doctor and provide details knowing that he or she will report the information to the government?

I don’t know about you, but my reaction would be, “It’s none of your business!”

In addition to wanting to know if you have a gun, our bureaucrats will probably want to know what kind — pistol, automatic (such as a ’44), the size of the magazine, shotgun (what kind) or some type of automatic rifle. In addition, they are also talking about wanting to know about the size of the magazines or clips in automatic guns and the type of bullets they use.

Give them a little time, and no doubt they will think of additional information about any guns you may own. Obama has already issued no less than 23 executive orders on guns, and I have no doubt that there will be many more.

As for protecting “the rights of health-care providers to talk to their patients about gun safety,” that’s perhaps the dumbest question of all. Are doctors, nurses and other health-care workers qualified to discuss “gun safety” with their patients?

The Weekly Standard further noted, “Doctors and other health-care providers also need to be able to ask about ... safe storage of those firearms, especially if their patients show signs of certain mental illnesses or if they have a young child of mentally ill family member at home.”

Unless a doctor sees a patient more often than an occasional visit, such as an annual physical, how on earth are they going to know that a patient shows “signs of certain mental illnesses”?

The doctors I know and have worked with are hard-working, conscientious people and are highly motivated to help patients, but my sense is that they will rebel against further unwarranted intrusion by the government, especially requiring them to engage in matters for which they are not qualified.

All of which will be additional reasons for many doctors to retire early or quit practicing medicine as Obamacare continues to unfold.

— Harris Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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