The AMA filed an amicus brief in 2012 that opposed Florida’s law prohibiting physicians from asking patients about gun ownership. The law, the AMA says, “infringes on a physician’s right to free speech and puts physicians in the untenable position of risking disciplinary consequences or abandoning ethical obligations.” The AMA asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a federal court decision in 2011 that ruled the gun gag law was unconstitutional.
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Explore This IssueOctober 2015
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Jeremy A. Lazaurs, MD, then president of the AMA, contended that “lawmakers cannot insert the state into the patient–physician relationship by dictating, prohibiting or threatening the open communication between patient and physician,” and that the AMA would “vigorously defend the patient–physician relationship and the free speech necessary for the practice of medicine.”
The court, however, upheld the Florida law last year.
The AMA subsequently passed a resolution in June opposing “any attempt by local, state or federal governments to interfere with a physician’s right to free speech as a means to improve the health and wellness of patients across the U.S.”
Dr. Hines, regardless of whether the Supreme Court hears his case, says he has plenty to occupy his time, including writing about the vaccination programs suggested in unusual animals, such as hippos and rhinos, and through his work as a licensed rehabilitator for the state of Texas, the only one south of Corpus Christi. He is also federally licensed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to do so and to supervise subpermittees in remote locations.
In a twist of bureaucratic irony, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Service puts Dr. Hines’s e-mail address and phone number on its website so that people can contact him for help and advice. “A lot of people cannot bring in the animal; they just call me, we correspond by e-mail, and I explain to them how to feed and care for its health needs. So I have one part of Texas sending them to me, and the other part punishing me if I answer. It’s really bizarre,” he says.
“It’s bunny season right now in Texas, so people call or e-mail, and I help them determine the age of the bunny based on size and photographs they e-mail or Skype me. If the bunny is too young to leave the nest, my advice is to put it back in the nest whenever possible. If they can’t do that, then I tell them how to feed and care for it properly.