Gun question prompts talk on hospital guidelines

January 23, 2013 (OAK LAWN, Ill.)

Sixteen-year-old Sam Insley is doing much better, but a bad case of tonsillitis landed him at Advocate Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn a couple of weeks ago.

He and his mom are grateful for the care he received but were troubled by something a doctor asked after his mom was asked to leave the room.

Sam says he was asked about drugs, alcohol, bullying, school and something else.

"The one question that stood out the most was the question, 'Do you have guns in your home?'" Sam said.

"I could totally understand if he was on the psych floor with attempted suicide or something that they need to know if there's a gun in the house. He was in for a tonsil infection," Mary Rita Insley said.

The head of the residency program at Advocate Children's Hospital says their doctors began following new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics the end of last year regarding gun safety.

The academy recommends doctors counsel families about gun safety to prevent injuries.

The academy's clinical guidelines suggest doctors ask teens:

  • Do you ever carry a gun?
  • Can you get a gun if you want to?
And ask the parent:

  • Do you have any guns in the house?
  • If so, how do you store them?

Dr. Alison Tothy is the chief of pediatric emergency medicine at Comer Children's Hospital and represents the American Academy of Pediatrics.

She says as children get older they see doctors less frequently, so her hospital asks doctors to follow the academy's guidelines.

"Keeping children healthy isn't just about the flu or colds or being sick, but it's also about keeping their whole body healthy and that includes safety such as seatbelts, bike helmets and guns," she said.

As for the Insleys, Sam answered the doctor's question and said there are no guns in the home.

"It's an invasion of privacy," Mary Rita Insley said.

At Advocate Children's Hospital, the head of their pediatric residency program says any information from these counseling sessions is part of the patients' medical record but would not be reported to any authorities outside the hospital.

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