The rollercoaster associated with the Firearms Owners Privacy Act (FOPA) is unlikely to stop in the near future. There are two major opposing views on the matter. Republicans tend to see this regulation as a way to safeguard their right to own firearms, which seems critical to them. However, Democrats who are mainly against firearms ownership tend to oppose the Act to reduce the number of firearms in the society. The voices of healthcare professionals seem less relevant to the two camps, but the medical perspective is central to the discussion and the decision-making process.
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Healthcare professionals understand that FOPA affects considerably physician’s speech and their ability to protect patients from health hazards associated with firearms (Parmet, Smith, & Miller, 2016). Parmet et al. (2016) note that in 2014, firearm-related injuries were associated with 33,000 deaths (out of which 21,334 were suicides). One of the most detrimental effects of the Act is the development of barriers to effective physician-patient relationships. Such regulations of physicians’ speech make it impossible to develop truly trustful relationships with patients. Physicians can understand what information to provide during a conversation with a patient. The physician should be free to ask questions that can help in understanding the patient better.
Most importantly, two major hazards can be addressed if the physician is free to ask about firearms ownership. First, children’s safety can be enhanced as the physician can draw the patient’s attention to particular threats as well as ways to avoid them (Parmet et al., 2016). Parmet et al. (2016) emphasize that numerous studies show that counseling concerning safe firearms storage has proved to be effective. Physicians should be able to ask questions concerning firearms ownership and storage methods used to be able to counsel patients effectively. Another area of concern is associated with the suicidal behavior. The physician can better estimate risks if the information concerning the availability of firearms is provided.
It is necessary to note that the vagueness of the Act also raises many questions. Healthcare professionals stress that potentially any question can be regarded as irrelevant, which will confine physician speech to a very limited set of questions (Parmet et al., 2016). This vagueness is another proof of FOPA’s irrelevance. Such acts should never be enacted or rather developed.
Patient rights should be secured, and the physicians’ behavior should also be regulated (no abuse or bias can be tolerated). Nevertheless, the ways to secure patient rights should be effective and consistent with aims and goals of (as well as strategies employed within) the US healthcare system. In simple terms, it is impossible to limit physicians’ speech due to some fears concerning bias especially when it comes to such aspects as firearms.
In conclusion, it is possible to note that the Firearms Owners Privacy Act seems to be a political issue as two opposing groups focus on their beliefs and priorities while majorly ignoring the medical perspective. Healthcare professionals stress that the Act prevents them from providing high-quality healthcare services. Physicians focus on such areas as children’s safety and suicidal behaviors among adults. Healthcare practitioners argue that FOPA makes it difficult and sometimes impossible to develop trustful relationships with patients. Therefore, the Act should be overturned, which will contribute to the development of a more effective healthcare system and will have a positive impact on public health.
Parmet, W. E., Smith, J. A., & Miller, M. J. (2016). Wollschlaeger v. Governor of Florida — The First Amendment, physician speech, and firearm safety. The New England Journal of Medicine, 374(24), 2304-2307.
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