CMSS Statement on Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling on the Ability of Physicians in Florida to Discuss with Patients the Presence of a Gun in the Home

Mitch Dvorak Council of Medical Specialty Societies
(312) 596-5250

CMSS Statement on Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling on the Ability of Physicians in Florida to Discuss with Patients the Presence of a Gun in the Home

For Immediate Release:
July 30, 2014

Chicago—The Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS) today announced that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to uphold a “physician gag law” in Florida violates the First Amendment rights of physicians and threatens their ability to counsel patients about how to protect family members from unintentional injury and death.

In its July 25, 2014 ruling, the court reversed the June 2012 decision of U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke of the Southern District of Florida-Miami, who ruled in the favor of the Florida chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and the American College of Physicians (ACP) and individual plaintiff physicians and issued an injunction against enforcing the 2011 Florida law restricting physician firearms safety counseling from going into effect.

In November 2012, an amicus brief supporting the district court ruling to enjoin the law was signed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the American College of Surgeons, the American College of Preventive Medicine, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the American Psychiatric Association.

The plaintiffs will petition the court for a rehearing by the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The injunction blocking enforcement of the law remains in effect until the court decides whether to rehear the case. If the court agrees to the rehearing, the injunction will remain in effect until its decision is issued.

The panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week described the law as a “legitimate regulation” of professional conduct that simply codified good medical care. In the view of CMSS, this decision deals a considerable blow to the patient/physician relationship, and deprives patients from the full range of preventive medical care they deserve.

This legislation could limit physicians from asking their patients about firearm ownership, and prevent the discussion of their safe storage and handling. Firearms education of both adults and children has been shown to decrease the likelihood of unintentional injury or death. The presence of firearms in the home, when improperly stored, can present a health danger to patients and others.

Behind the closed doors of an exam room, physicians routinely ask patients many very personal questions and provide medical advice about their sexual behavior, alcohol and drug use, domestic violence, and other sensitive issues. CMSS strongly believes the patient-physician relationship must be protected, because physicians provide appropriate education and recommendations to patients based on open, honest and confidential communication.

CMSS will continue to oppose governmental intrusions into the clinical examination room and calls on lawmakers to leave determination of what constitutes medically necessary treatment where it belongs—in the hands of physicians and patients.

About CMSS
Founded in 1965, CMSS was created to provide an independent forum for the discussion by medical specialists of issues of national interest and mutual concern. Today, CMSS represents forty-one societies with an aggregate membership of 750,000 U.S. physicians.  Its main purpose is to provide a forum for collaboration to influence policy, medical education and accreditation from a broad, cross-specialty perspective. CMSS is the unified voice for specialty societies established to improve the United States’ healthcare system and health of the public. For more information visit CMSS at