Florida News

Florida medical malpractice reforms being debated

In November, Florida voters endorsed three medical malpractice reforms, and a House committee has approved bills enacting two of them after much dispute. The House Judiciary Committee members went through many suggested changes in order to clarify the “three strikes” and “Patients Right to Know” laws, which were referred to as being vague and ambiguous.

Some legislators warned lengthy court battles could result from over interpreting the voters' intentions, and other legislators believed the issue was only on the ballot because of competing interests and lobbying efforts. The biggest issue discussed yesterday was the lawyer backed change, Amendment 7, that would allow for more access to the records of doctors and other health care providers so people could review previous incidents that may have caused injury or death.

While committee members agreed to limit the available records for review to those that address conditions, treatments or diagnoses similar to that of the patient requesting the records, legislators had different interpretations for when the records could be reviewed. Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa, said his interpretation was that voters wanted to be able to review records before choosing a doctor or hospital and later access would only help build medical malpractice cases against a doctor or health provider.

Also approved was to allow facilities to charge fees for copying and a “reasonable fee” to account for the staff time spent copying and redacting patient identifying information. There are still two more amendments that must be addressed, including a bill that would take away doctors' medical licenses if they are found guilty of medical malpractice three times within 10 years starting after Nov. 3, 2004 and a cap on the amount of fees an attorney can collect in medical malpractice cases.

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