Specifically, the Physician Gag Law expressly restricts health care practitioners,in certain vaguely-defined circumstances, from asking patients questions related to gun safety orrecording information from those conversations in patients’ medical records, on penalty of harshdisciplinary sanctions, including fines and permanent revocation of their licenses to practicemedicine. Moreover, the statute prohibits “unnecessar[y] harass[ment]” and “discrimination” onthe basis of a patient’s possession or ownership of a firearm, but defines neither of those terms,leaving their definitions to the eye of the beholder. As a result, some health care practitionerswho are simply following established protocol by informing patients how they may limit thelethal risks posed by firearms may be hauled before a disciplinary board because a patient whocategorically objects to
discussion or inquiry regarding such risks claims to be offended.4.
Thus, in addition to establishing express prohibitions on protected speech, thePhysician Gag Law is also so vague, and its sanctions so severe, that it chills health carepractitioners’ discussions of gun safety with their patients even in situations arguably permittedby the law. Fearing the prospect of professionally devastating public disciplinary proceedings,practitioners are left to assume the law’s vague speech prohibitions will be construed to prohibit,and therefore will self-censor, their speech regarding how patients can best minimize the risks of injury and death associated with gun ownership.5.
The Physician Gag Law consequently not only will deprive physicians and otherhealth care practitioners of their First Amendment right to freedom of speech, but also willdeprive patients of their First Amendment rights to receive potentially life-saving informationregarding safety measures they can take to protect their children, families, and others from injuryor death resulting from unsafe storage or handling of firearms.
Case 1:11-cv-22026-MGC Document 1 Entered on FLSD Docket 06/06/2011 Page 3 of 26