June President's Message
Flags are at half-mast. Again.
Since Sunday morning when I first learned of the Orlando shootings I have been thinking about it. I've watched and read more news than usual this week. I keep thinking of the families and friends of the dead and of the survivors and how so many lives are forever changed. As I’m sure many of you have, I kept thinking of all those working that day in the streets, EDs, and ORs in Orlando. Their careers and lives have been affected forever. We pride ourselves on our ability to do our job no matter what, but I cannot comprehend working when one shooting became a few, then a dozen, then scores. Forty-nine dead. Twenty-five still hospitalized.
As I began to think about writing about the shootings for this month's message, I asked others for advice. Some said "No way. Too controversial." Others thought it was past time to talk about it as a specialty and encouraged me to do so. Still others thought if done from "the right angle" it would be "okay."
After much reflection, I felt I had to say something. If we as Emergency Physicians can't talk about gun violence professionally, who can? This is not about our Second Amendment "right to bear arms." This is not about whether or not you should be able to have a gun to protect your family or go hunting. This is about public health and a leading cause of death in this country.
The problem is that we don't know what questions to ask because government research dollars are not allowed to be used to study gun violence. That's right. One of the leading causes of death in this country cannot be studied by the CDC because of the Dickie Amendment of 1996. Earlier this week at the AMA’s Annual Meeting, ACEP joined over one hundred other specialty societies in passing a resolution calling for an end to the federal ban on research.
Earlier this year, ACEP created a "multidisciplinary High Threat Emergency Casualty Care Task Force dedicated to understanding, tracking and responding most effectively to mass casualty incidents of this kind." ACEP has a policy statement on "Firearm Safety and Prevention," most recently updated in April 2013.
However you personally feel about gun rights, gun control, or gun violence, as an emergency physician, I am professionally proud to see that efforts are underway to at least begin to study the problem, start to ask questions, and maybe even find some solutions. As I said last month about the mounting opiate issues we face, "If nothing changes, nothing changes." How many more times will we have to lower our flags to half-mast before some small positive change can come out of another unthinkable tragedy?
Michael J. McCrea, MD, FACEP
President, Ohio ACEP