Douglas Hallward-Driemeier Comments in Bloomberg BNA Article on Fight Over Law Precluding Doctors from Asking Patients About Gun Ownership
Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, the leader of Ropes & Gray’s Appellate and Supreme Court practice provided extensive commentary in the January 17 Bloomberg BNA Health Law Reporter article, “First Amendment Rights of Doctors at Issue In Appeal Over State Gun Owners Privacy Law.” The attorneys discussed Wollschlaeger v. Governor of Florida, which involves the Florida Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act and its potential violation of the First Amendment rights of doctors.
On June 29, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted summary judgment for the doctors who challenged the law and ruled that Florida’s Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, which prevents doctors from asking patients questions about gun ownership, was unconstitutional. On August 2, 2012, the governor of Florida filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, seeking to overturn the ruling.
In the article, Hallward-Driemeier, who represents the doctors who challenged the law, explains that the lawsuit is important on a number of different levels. “This case is about ‘preserving doctors’ rights to speak honestly with patients about any subject that might affect their health,’” he says. Florida may be the first state trying to impose limitations on a doctor’s ability to counsel patients regarding gun ownership, but Hallward-Driemeier points out that other states are considering similar legislation. Furthermore, as he comments in the article, there is a concern that “states could view a ruling upholding the law as an opening to restrict physicians’ speech on other subjects, such as cigarette smoking, obesity, and reproductive rights counseling.”
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Reproduced with permission from BNA's Health Law Reporter, 22 HLR 83 (Jan. 17, 2013). Copyright 2013 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) <http://www.bna.com>