December 3, 2012

Regarding the Nov. 27 Health & Science article “Court case in Florida addresses doctors’ freedom to quiz patients about guns”:

As a pediatrician at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University, I read with concern about the attempts to limit conversations between patients and their doctors. I recently cared for a 6-year-old child who found his parents’ loaded gun under their bed. When his older sibling attempted to take the weapon from him, the gun discharged and my patient was shot in the belly. He lost more than half his blood volume and was rushed to emergency surgery, where half of his stomach and small intestine and his entire spleen and colon were removed. He remained in the hospital for more than half of a year; he still requires the use of a colostomy bag and cannot feed by mouth.

My patient will struggle with chronic pain for years to come. I can’t help but wonder whether his pediatrician asked his family about gun ownership and proper storage. If I don’t ask my patients about gun ownership and provide them with appropriate counseling, I may not be upholding my oath to “keep [my patients] from harm and injustice.”

Lena Winestone, Palo Alto, Calif.