Proposal to Change Amendment 7 Threatens Patient Rights in Florida

Proposal to Change Amendment 7 Threatens Patient Rights in Florida

A proposal to change Amendment 7 of the Florida Constitution that gives parties in medical-malpractice lawsuits access to adverse incident reports is on the 2018 agenda for Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission. The proposal aims to limit this type of access allegedly for the sake of “privacy.”

According to Commissioner Tim Cerio, an increase in the number of medical-malpractice lawsuits and subsequent rulings has led to a broader interpretation of what adverse-incident reports actually are. He claims this has resulted in the release of documents that can expose healthcare providers and hospitals. As Cerio says, “There has been a stream of cases that have expanded basically the impact of Amendment 7 and created an ability for litigants to get at information that was not intended.”

However, in 20014 Sunshine State voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 7 and patients’ rights to adverse incident reports. The amendment establishes patients’ absolute right to obtain adverse incident reports from doctors’ offices, hospitals and other medical institutions in order to help make informed choices. Indeed, patients’ access to adverse incident report having been stonewalled by the healthcare industry since 2004, the Florida Supreme Court finally decided twice in 2017 that Amendment 7’s scope was broad and patients were absolutely entitled to obtain any adverse incident reports. In one case, and in response to a hospital’s nefarious attempt to shield adverse incident reports from a patient, Justice R. Fred Lewis said the hospital’s action was “a trap door through which hospitals could totally avoid their discovery obligations by outsourcing their adverse medical incident reporting to external, voluntary risk management committees separate from those required by the Florida statutory scheme.”

Nevertheless, voters might end up returning to the polls to vote on the Constitution Revision Committee’s proposal to change Amendment 7 that would pulls the rug out from under patients’ rights. The Constitution Revision Commission is a governmental, but politically charged entity that meets every 20 years to examine the Florida Constitution and propose changes. According to the commission’s Web site, “The CRC meets for approximately one year, traveling across the State of Florida, identifying issues, performing research and possibly recommending changes to the Florida Constitution.” Proposals that pass the CRC’s final vote are placed on Florida’s General Election ballot and need to secure at least 60 percent voter approval to become law.

Do you need help obtaining adverse-incident reports for your medical malpractice claim? We can help. Contact our Florida team of medical malpractice attorneys to get started on your case today.

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