Tackling a Public Health Crisis
The American Society of Anesthesiology’s political action committee should actively promote policies to stem the “public health crisis” of gun violence, according to a new article published by UNM anesthesiologists and their colleagues.
The physicians, writing this month in the Journal of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Anesthesia, call upon their professional organization to join other medical societies in tackling the issue, charging that as a group, “we have shied away from confronting this epidemic.”
Anesthesiologists and other perioperative physicians often find themselves caring for gun violence victims, the authors point out. “Why is gun violence treated differently from other national health crises and, as perioperative physicians and patient safety champions, why have we been so reluctant to address this issue?” they ask.
“[T]he time is now to support policies that promote gun safety, mitigate gun-related dangers, engage in gun violence-related research and education, and promote the enactment of laws and policies that enable citizens to live lives free from the fear and violence engendered by guns,” they write.
The article’s lead author was Neil S. Gerstein, MD, a professor in UNM’s Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine and director of the Division of Cardiac Anesthesiology. He was joined by colleagues at UNM, the University of Utah, the University of Maryland, Duke University, the Oregon Health and Science University and the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center in Albuquerque.
Specific recommendations include:
- Having perioperative medical journals solicit the publication of research on gun violence;
- Supporting policies allowing doctors to provide evidence-based information to patients on gun safety;
- Supporting policies to screen and limit access to those at risk of committing firearm violence;
- Working to repeal the Dickey Amendment, which limits federally funded research on gun violence;
- Calling on law enforcement, sporting and social activists to partner in search of solutions to reduce gun violence;
- Mandating child access prevention measures and safe gun storage requirements;
- Implementing background checks, instituting a mandatory waiting period for gun purchase and digitizing U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms gun records;
- Banning the future manufacture and sale of assault weapons, regulating existing assault weapons and initiating a voluntary federal gun buyback program.
They conclude, “We call on the ASA and other national organizations and leaders to support and develop strategies to address these significantly unmet need areas and prevent future gun violence tragedies.”