Doctor’s advice: defenselessness

Sorry for the silence of late–been a bit busy the last few days.

Anyway, today I want to look at the ever-expanding trend of physicians jumping on the forcible citizen disarmament bandwagon, citing as their reason for doing so that it’s a “public health” issue. Specifically, let’s look at a blog post written by someone who calls himself “PalMD” (sounds friendly enough).

One such question came up in a comment recently. The question revolved around whether doctors should ask patients about firearms.

It is the policy of my professional organization to inquire about firearm ownership and safety. Is this a valid position, and if so, why?

“Pal’s” response? You’re darn tootin’ it’s a valid position! (As if there had been any doubt what the response would be).

First, physicians are charged with prevention and treatment of human disease/injury. Prevention encompasses screening for risk factors, and preventative treatments such as vaccination. It also includes counseling regarding important health behaviors, such as seat belt use.

So, we must ask, “are firearms an important, preventable health problem?” Then, “if so, how do we intervene to prevent firearm injury and death?”

Are firearms a health problem? Well, no. Getting shot poses some pretty obvious problems for one’s health, but until firearms start loading themselves, pointing themselves at people, and pulling their own triggers, the firearms clearly aren’t the problem. In the same vein, falling off a mountain tends to be bad for one’s health, too, but that doesn’t mean that mountains are a “health problem.”

Let’s ignore all that for a minute, though, and momentarily concede, for the sake of debate, that firearms are a health problem–is it a “preventable” one? Well, some of the strictest laws pertaining to gun ownership and use in the world haven’t prevented it. As another example, Mexico’s gun laws are notoriously strict (you can be thrown into a Mexican prison for accidentally carrying a single round of ammunition across the border), but that hasn’t prevented the drug gangs from gunning down thousands of people. So, “Pal,” is that your idea of “prevention”–emulating Mexico’s stunning success?

“Pal” then goes on to tell us that “[t]he data regarding firearms and preventable injury is unassailable.” You know what? No data is “unassailable”–it might be correct, but that doesn’t put it in a position that it must never be questioned. He goes on to say something even more annoying:

The exact magnitude of the problem can be debated, but its health significance cannot.

It “cannot” be debated? Who the hell are you, Pal, to tell people what can and cannot be debated? What do you plan to do if we decide to go ahead and debate what “cannot” be debated, anyway? By the way, the above quoted link is to a New England Journal of Medicine editorial from April, the gist of which seems to be that the Supreme Court, in the (then pending) Heller decision, should ignore pesky details like the Constitution, and instead read Garen Wintemute‘s proof that guns cause global warming (I’m kidding . . . mostly).

The bottom line is that if I have an illness or injury that I need diagnosed and/or treated, I’ll go to a physician, but when it comes to securing my person and my freedom, I’ll look to someone with more expertise on the subject than is generally taught in med school–these folks, perhaps.

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