Tuesday, March 18, 2014

NRA blocks surgeon general nominee Vivek Murthy.

NRA blocks surgeon general nominee Vivek Murthy.

"That means that at least three Democrats who were comfortable supporting Manchin-Toomey, plus probably Montana's new Sen. John Walsh, lost their sea legs after reading the NRA's Feb. 26 letter. Its brief against Murthy was based in large part on letters sent by the group he founded, Doctors for America, during the post-Sandy Hook debate. DFA had, for example, called on Congress to 'remove the provision in the Affordable Care Act and other federal policies that prohibit physicians from documenting gun ownership.' This was never going to happen—provisions like that had secured red-state-Democrat votes in the first place—but the NRA's Chris Cox argued that it was put there to 'foster trust between gun owners and their physicians, ensuring that the information exchanged during an exam will not be used to curb the patient's rights.'"

At first this law didn't make much sense to me, then I read the DFA's letter.

Yet gun violence is an area where both state and federal policies have prohibited us from doing our job. Research shows that having a gun at home markedly increases risk of injury and suicide. Despite this, legislators in multiple states have sought to prevent physicians from assessing that risk by limiting what physicians can talk about with their patients.

Similarly, especially when it comes to suicide risk, we have far too few resources to adequately treat patients with those mental illnesses.

Specific approaches should include:

  • Prohibit laws preventing physicians from discussing gun safety with patients.
  • Remove the provision in the Affordable Care Act and other federal policies that prohibit physicians from documenting gun ownership.
  • Invest in improving access to mental health resources.

After Sandy Hook the NRA was all about wanting more guns and dealing with the mental health issues in the country. Well it seems to me that letting doctors talk to their patients openly would probably help. Regardless, a nominee's involvement with an organization wouldn't seem to be an issue. He's nominated for Surgeon General, a position that can't change such federal law, for that he'd have to be nominated for Congress, an office that seems to have much lower qualifications.

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