Osteopathic Medical Profession Supports Protection of Patient-Physician Relationship and Ability to Discuss Firearm Violence

Jul 20, 2013, 21:07 ET from American Osteopathic Association

CHICAGO, July 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Recognizing that several states have pursued legislation that dictates how physicians treat and counsel patients during a medical examination, many worry that this could interfere with the patient-physician relationship. With that important relationship in mind, the American Osteopathic Association's (AOA) House of Delegates voted today to enact multiple policies that address these laws.

Among these laws, which have been collectively referred to as "interference laws," are restrictions on content of information that physicians can disclose to patients. Other types of these laws concern physicians because they require them to discuss treatment options or provide tests which are not medically necessary or supported by evidence. Often these can be invasive or required without patient consent. Laws in some states require physicians who perform abortions to first perform a fetal ultrasound, which some argue are not medically necessary.

"The patient-physician relationship is a critical aspect of osteopathic medicine," says Joseph A. Giaimo, DO, an AOA board-certified internist and pulmonologist in private practice in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and a member of the AOA Board of Trustees. "Osteopathic physicians believe that communication with their patients is part of preventive medicine. A patient needs to feel they can trust their physician and be able to have an open dialogue about their lifestyles and the physician should not feel they must discuss certain topics out of legal obligation."

Dr. Giaimo's home state of Florida was at the center of an interference law controversy due to the Firearm Owner's Privacy Act, which restricted physicians from asking patients about firearm ownership. Although the law was overturned, it raised many questions in a time when high profile acts of gun violence have garnered national attention. The issue resurfaced in January 2013 when President Obama signed 23 executive orders regarding gun control. The Obama Administration later clarified that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit physicians from asking patients about guns in their homes, and that no federal law prohibits physicians or other health care providers from reporting their patients' threats of violence to authorities.

With this in mind delegates at the meeting passed a policy specifically addressing firearm violence that supports the Obama Administration's clarification on discussion of gun safety and the ability to report threats of violence. The resolution also supports research on firearm violence and increasing access to mental health services due the link between mental illness and firearm violence.

The AOA also adopted a policy opposing all legislation at the state and federal level which requires physicians to discuss or perform certain treatments or procedures not supported by evidence-based guidelines. The policy also opposes all legislation that prevents physicians from discussing certain health-related risk factors with their patients, including firearm violence.

About the House of Delegates
The AOA's House of Delegates, comprised of more than 500 delegates representing osteopathic state medical associations, specialty societies, interns, residents and students from throughout the country, meets annually in July to set organizational policies and elect new officers. 

About the American Osteopathic Association
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) proudly represents its professional family of more than 104,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at www.osteopathic.org.

SOURCE American Osteopathic Association