Trouble in the Evergreen State



[Ed: We thought we’d share an example of letters we often receive about inappropriate physician queries with unsolicited advice about guns in patient care settings. We hear about these incidents all too often, but want to so that we can offer what help we can. Thank you to the writer for allowing us to share this.] 


I wanted to inform you that doctors are asking intrusive questions regarding gun ownership in Washington state.

Recently I had a routine annual physical exam and the doctor started to ask more about guns.

The first time this happened was on my June  2015 exam.
What was admitted as a note: “Has guns, doesn’t keep them loaded, keeps them in a safe.”

But, questions became more extensive this September 2018 when Dr. S. asked (in his third question)
“May I ask what kind of guns you have?” I stated NO you can’t. I then went on to explain the difficulty loading (i.e., inserting magazine, cocking, removing safety) and that I  am proactive in protecting my wife and I by keeping doors & windows locked.

This was admitted, in September as a medical record note:

“Guns in home, keeps unloaded. Has ability to keep in locked container.’ 

Currently retired.  . . . Guns in the home, keeps unloaded. Has ability to keep in locked container.
ASSESSMENT: [Patient] was seen for his Welcome to Medicare Visit (IPPE).
Based on the information above, I identified the following risk factors & conditions that may affect his health and function in the future:

. . . 3. Guns in the home
— Medical Student ‐ 09/13/2018 8:30 AM PDT

I was present with the medical student. I personally performed the physical examination and medical decision making. I have verified all of the medical student’s documentation for this encounter.
[name], MD”

Note: they made an assumption that I wasn’t keeping guns in my safe, because that wasn’t specifically addressed this time(but prior in 2015 the safe was mentioned, but stated anyway, in my record that gun was not in safe).

I found the gun question intrusive when it was brought up in 2015 and now they are making my annual physical exam some kind inquisition.

I thought this might be of interest and perhaps an article mentioning in the Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership would get the word out that you can no longer trust your doctor (at least those at the University of Washington).

Can you point me to resources that I can get that would legally challenge these types of questions? I think the doctor broached a boundary that violates his professions rules.



Hello Mr. . . . ,

We are sorry (but entirely unsurprised) to hear about your doctors drilling in on your gun ownership. This happens all over (although not with the majority of physicians, thankfully) and the U of Washington is a well-known hotbed of anti-gun sentiment. We completely agree that these questions in a non-emergent situation breached professional boundaries. We do not believe this applies to all or even most Washington state docs, and hope you’ll be able to make other arrangements for care. 
We have two resources that may help:
2. If you are looking for a new provider, we may be able to help with a referral to a gun-friendly one. See our page describing how DRGO Will Connect Patients with Gun-Friendly Doctors for the description of the service, then proceed to to sign up and make your request. We can’t guarantee we know someone close enough, but we are hearing from more and more providers who want to provide non-judgement care to patients like you. 
Your particular experience is characteristic of thousands of others that we hear about day after day. The more we show what is wrong with this attitude, the more people understand and demand change. 
Thank you for writing–we want to help!
Robert B. Young, MD

Robert B Young, MD

— DRGO Editor Robert B. Young, MD is a psychiatrist practicing in Pittsford, NY, an associate clinical professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

All DRGO articles by Robert B. Young, MD