When It Comes To Guns, Physicians Should Forget The Hippocratic Oath.

Now that America finally has a Surgeon General, you would think that the debate over his appointment would give way to an honest and serious effort to evaluate Vivek Murthy’s performance as he leads the nation’s public health effort for at least the next two years. But there’s one guy out there who simply can’t leave the issue behind, and as he continues to fulminate over Obama’s choice for Surgeon General, the hot air and the lies continue to expand.  I am referring to Tim Wheeler, the sometime head of an alleged organization which claims to represent thousands of physicians who support ‘responsible’ ownership of guns.  The NRA has been pushing this quack into the public arena ever since the gun lobby decided that the listing of gun violence as a public health problem meant that physicians had become, to gun owners, Public Enemy Number 1.

      Vivek Murthy, M.D.

Vivek Murthy, M.D.

I didn’t notice the automobile industry attacking physicians when car accidents made the list as a public health problem.  In fact, Detroit collaborated with public health researchers when it came to designing and producing safer cars.  The same could also be said of the household recreation industry which helped craft legislation passed by state after state which mandated that fences be installed around all in-ground, backyard pools.  But somehow the gun industry decided that its products not only did more good than harm, but decided that they did so much more good than harm that the issues of lethality and safety risks didn’t need to be discussed at all.  Enter Timothy Wheeler, who has doggedly led the fight to disconnect physicians from any public discussion or publicly-funded research about guns.  And if you doubt the validity of anything he says, remember, this is a guy who claims to be an M.D.

Now I’m not an M.D. but I can do simple math.  And if guns are the method of choice in 100,000 fatal and non-fatal but serious injuries each year, then we’re not talking about chopped liver in medical terms.  We’re talking about a medical condition which costs countless lives, billions of dollars and untold family trauma each year, the human results of which inevitably end up in a critical-care treatment bay with the terrified family and friends waiting to be told whether they’ll ever be able to speak to the shooting victim again.

 

Wheeler’s latest effort to spread misinformation and stupidity about the role of physicians in gun violence is an op-ed on the National Review website which features his bizarre frothings from time to time. In this particular effort, he not only takes aim at Murthy and the potential danger that he represents for gun owners over the next several years, but he also repeats the fiction that physicians have no right to invade patients’ privacy by advocating “gun control” in the examining room.

If Wheeler is so lacking in the most rudimentary understanding of how medical professionals attempt to asses patient risk he can be excused if only because he may not know how much disinformation he’s handing out.  But if he’s aware of how physicians are trained to assess medical risk then he’s just pandering to an audience who can be excused for not knowing what Wheeler’s supposed to be talking about.

Physicians usually begin an examination by asking the patient how he or she feels.  The answer to that question prompts the next question,  the answer to the next question prompts a third, a fourth and as many questions and answers as the physician needs to ask in  order to assess the health risk of the patient sitting in the examination room.  To place any limits on the doctor-patient exchange of information is to ask a physician to violate the Hippocratic oath.  But Wheeler’s not interested in the method that physicians use to reduce harm.  He’s interested in helping the NRA marketing team, which means he’ll say whatever the gun industry needs to have said in order to sell guns.  He’s a good salesman from that point of view; as a physician he says things that simply aren’t true.

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Why Not Let The NRA Protect Us From Ebola?

Last year you may recall that the self-certified ophthalmologist, Rand Paul, derailed the nomination of Vivek Murthy to become Surgeon General because Murthy actually believes that guns are contraindicated to good health.  Now it looks like the nomination may go forward again, and to rev up support for Murthy, the States United campaign and MSNBC put out a statement blaming the NRA for a possible Ebola crisis in the United States, the logic being that any lapses in the CDC’s response to Ebola can be blamed on a lack of leadership, which can be blamed on the Senate’s failure to confirm Murthy, which can be blamed on the NRA.

Not one to ever back down from a good argument, the NRA called the charges against them “outlandish,” and went on to say that “gun control supporters will use any human tragedy to advance their anti-gun and anti-NRA agenda, no matter how ridiculous and desperate it reveals them to be.”  So what Philip Cook and Kristin Goss call The Gun Debate once again becomes the gun argument with both sides appealing to emotions and fears rather than evidence-based information, aka, facts.  The fact is that there’s no connection between an airport security guard who didn’t check a boarding pass and the absence of a Surgeon General in Washington, DC.  There‘s also no connection between Vivek’s views on gun violence and whether Americans need to protect themselves from crime, terrorists or anything else with guns.

      Vivek Murthy, M.D.

Vivek Murthy, M.D.

Speaking about terrorism, yesterday I received an email from a company marketing a product which appears to be a “must have” accessory for my AR-15.  It’s a handy little gadget called a Field Survivor Tool that stores in the rifle handgrip and allows me to adjust my sights, tighten the rails, fix the ejector, clean the bore and gas key, all for only $79.95.  And what’s really important about this little gizmo is that, according to the manufacturer, it’s “the one tool necessary for every AR to keep you safe in COMBAT or in play at the range.”  Combat?  I bought an AR so that I could go into combat?  I was drafted in 1968.  That’s when I would have gone into combat.

On the other hand, maybe there’s a new definition of combat that, like many millennial cultural expressions, has passed me by.  Take a look at the website of the Michigan Militia, some of whose members were interviewed by Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine and I quote from their Home page: “We are on yellow alert, which means a situation is probable. This is due to threats from ISIS and a completely unsecure border.  There are reports that some form of attack is imminent on the Southwestern border.  Check your gas tanks and water containers.”  What are they planning to do?  Drive from Michigan to the Rio Grande to protect the homeland?

But you don’t need to cross the United States to get into combat.  It’s a situation that could flare up at any point during the day.  Here’s some advice from Ted Nugent, who avoided military service but knows a good combat situation when  he sees one: “Those who carry guns had better gun & ammo up no matter where you go, carrying at least 10 spare mags or 10 spare speedloaders because the allahpukes are confident they will once again methodically slaughter walking cowering whining cryin helpless sitting ducks capable of zero resistance.”  Gun and ammo up and don’t forget the handy Field Survivor Tool for just $79.95.

Want a brilliant satire on current gun culture?  Take a look at this video produced by a kid from Texas named Ike Stephens.  He’s a gun guy for sure, but he knows a good marketing pitch when he sees one.  And with all due respect to advocates for gun control like States United, what they seem to miss is there are lots of grownups out there who really wish they were still kids but can pretend to be soldier-boy using real guns.  How do you connect concerns about gun violence to those kinds of folks?  Because if Ebola did start ravaging the United States, I guarantee it would re-start the demand for AR-15s.

 

An Inmate Takes Over The Asylum: Rand Paul Says Guns Aren’t A Public Health Issue

This week President Obama submitted his nomination for Surgeon General to the Senate, a Yale-trained physician named Vivek Murthy, and Rand Paul announced he had put a “hold” on the nomination because of Murthy’s opposition to the 2nd Amendment and his membership in organizations like The Center for American Progress which want to impose stricter controls over guns.

Paul is trying to ferret out every conservative and Tea Party vote to help him win the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, so it’s not surprising that he would pander to the views of the NRA, which immediately sent a message to the Senate supporting Senator Paul’s stand. But Rand Paul is also a licensed physician, an opthamologist, so you think he would at least have the honesty to admit that his declaration that guns do not represent a “public health issue” is nothing more than election-year nonsense even before the election year has arrived.

But why let facts stand in the way of your opinions, particularly when you believe that the loonier your opinions, the better chance you have of ending up living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for at least four years?  The only problem is that if Paul really believes that guns aren’t a public health issue, then he’s woefully ignorant of the determinations made by his own medical profession whose uncontested views and guidelines on gun violence have been on public record for more than thirty years.

The CDC, which is required under law to define and track progress on issues that affect public health, has listed gun violence as an issue since the publication of  “Healthy people: the Surgeon General’s report on health promotion and disease prevention” in 1979.  This publication, which is updated every ten years, defined gun violence as a public health issue because it was the major cause of homicides which are a significant part of a broad category of public health threats known as unintentional injuries and accidents, which also includes, among other health impairments, vehicular accidents, residential fires, drownings and physical assaults.

The interesting thing about gun violence, is that the two categories in which its occurrence is tracked by the CDC – firearm-related deaths and nonfatal firearm-related injuries – have each shown progress in the CDC report, as opposed to health threats like falls, child maltreatment, school physical education injuries and overall homicides, the last of which has moved further away from the targeted goal that was set in 1998.

If Rand Paul was really interested in making an honest contribution to the gun debate, he would cite the 2010 CDC Healthy People report as an example of how firearm owners are doing the right thing when it comes to safe use of their guns.  Because that’s exactly what the CDC report says.  But Paul isn’t interested in an honest debate, he’s trying to out-lunatic the lunatics in order to make sure that nobody else (example: Ted Cruz) can challenge him from the Right.  Of course the NRA isn’t any more interested in injecting reality into the debate.  I just received a fund-raising appeal from them telling me that gun ownership was heading towards Armageddon in 2014. Don’t worry, I get the same kind of emotion-laden appeals from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense telling me that gun-carrying Americans are out of control.

I think it’s gotten to the point that you can’t talk about guns in rational terms.  There’s too much at stake and what’s at stake is political ambition and money, lots of money, which is used to keep people’s minds focused on things that have noting to do with health, or safety or whether Americans should own guns.