Docs Asked to Judge Patients' Competency to Carry Guns

Docs Asked to Judge Patients' Competency to Carry Guns
Docs Asked to Judge Patients' Competency to Carry Guns

(HealthDay News) — Some U.S. jurisdictions are now requiring a doctor's OK for people to carry a concealed gun, but a new survey suggests many doctors aren't comfortable with that role. The new survey is reported in the June 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Adam Goldstein, MD, MPH, of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, and colleagues sent surveys to 600 primary care doctors and psychiatrists in the state, and got responses from 222. The researchers found that 21% had been asked in the past year to sign "competency permits" for patients to carry a concealed weapon. By signing, the doctor attests to the patient's mental and physical ability to safely carry a firearm.

Overall, 59% said they doubted their ability to judge whether a patient was physically "fit" to carry a gun safely, and 47% doubted they could judge a patient's mental fitness. A full 84% said those judgment calls should be made by professionals specifically trained to do so. Yet, of the doctors who'd gotten requests to do competency evaluations, 79% had signed off on them, the researchers found.

"There are no guidelines on this," Goldstein told HealthDay. "If over 20% of the doctors in this survey have been asked to sign competency permits, then it's a big issue," he said. "But it's an issue that most people are probably unaware of. We hope this study can inform a conversation."

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