Doing No Harm Versus the Right to Bear Arms

In our December 2017 issue, “Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis,” we spoke with experts about the complexities of treating gun control as a health-care issue and the varying opinions among hematologists about how – or whether – to approach firearm regulation as clinicians. A German hematologist wrote in to offer perspective on this uniquely American problem.

I am an international ASH member and have just read the article about gun control. As a European citizen, I am concerned about the “right” to own guns in the United States. To be honest, I am deeply troubled as to whether it is in line with all we know about practicing humane and reasonable medicine (primum nil nocere).

Primary prophylaxis is key in medicine. To own a gun contradicts all we know about preventing homicides. Why, then, should a hematologist ask to preserve the right to own guns?

As a foreigner, it is not my intention to criticize your country. When it comes to prevention, however, scientific reasoning is what should be discussed, and – from all we know – societies with gun control laws experience many fewer injuries and homicides, compared with countries that allow more access to guns.

If this was the case, why should physicians call for not restricting access to guns? Could it be that there are other hidden agendas in play?

—Andreas Neubauer, MD
Director, Department of Hematology, Oncology, and Immunology
The University Hospital of Giessen and Marburg
Marburg, Germany