Barbara J. Turner, MD, director of the Research to Advance Community Health (ReACH) Center at University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, said in an email that “both physician and patient are responsible for a trend towards violence.”

“When a patient is upset about the physician not prescribing an opioid or increasing the dose sometimes we have to bring the healthcare system police and escorts patients out,” she said. “I have certainly had patients act out in my practice and have to have them escorted out. Usually these are new patients who were coming in expecting me to give them an opioid prescription and I refused. These folks are known as doctor shoppers and they’ll just go from clinic to clinic being pushy about getting opioids. “Clearly in situations where guns are more prevalent, the dangers become even greater but thankfully I’ve never been in that circumstance.”

Those who practiced chronic pain part-time were more likely to be harmed, the study found. Males were more likely to be threatened than females. The most threatened specialty was anesthesiology.

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To mitigate potential risks, some CPCPs discharged violent patients (85.33%) and others reported using protective equipment (16.89%). Survey respondents noted that the most common kind of protective equipment carried among this group was a gun (54%).

An event that occurred a little more than a year ago brought the conversation of physicians carrying firearms mainstream. A doctor working at the Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pennsylvania stopped a patient who had opened fire in the psychiatric unit.The patient, who had psychiatric problems, was taken into police custody following the incident.

“In terms prevention and risk mitigation more research needs to be done,” Kim said.