Tags: doctors | obama | gun | database

Doctors Oppose Disclosure of Medical Records to Gun Database

By Melanie Batley   |   Thursday, 13 Jun 2013 02:35 PM

Doctors are pushing back against an Obama administration proposal to relax patient privacy laws. The change would lead to medical records being sent to a national gun background-check database of those deemed mentally unfit.

The measure would expressly allow state mental-health authorities to transmit records of anyone who has been declared mentally unfit to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Federal gun laws prohibit dealers from selling guns to people deemed "mentally defective," but few states have provided the records needed for the government to enforce it.

Related: Obama Taking Action on Gun Background Check System

The proposal represented one element of the government's strategy to strengthen federal gun control in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings and other gun-related attacks such as the attempted assassination of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the Colorado cinema shootings. All of those attacks were carried out by mentally unstable young men.

The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors said in a June 7 letter to the Health and Human Services Department that the proposal would serve only "to exacerbate the stigma faced by people with mental illnesses and could potentially have a significant chilling effect" on their resolve to seek help.

Other medical organizations — including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Psychological Association — expressed similar reservations, according to the Journal. They say the move would undermine relationships with patients who may fear their medical information is no longer private.

They also say there are other ways for the government to gather such information, from courts or criminal-justice authorities, for example.

A spokeswoman for HHS, Rachel Seeger, said the agency is not pushing for broad disclosure by health-care providers. Rather, there may need for an adjustment to the current privacy rules to allow doctors to report involuntary commitments to state mental-health authorities, which then can be passed on to the FBI database.

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