In its decision dated January 30, 2014, the Supreme Court of Florida (“Florida Supreme Court”) upheld the intent of so-called Amendment 7 (Art. X, § 25, Fla. Const.), which is entitled, “Patients’ right to know about adverse medical incidents.” Amendment 7 was passed with 81.2% of the Florida’s voters casting votes in favor of the Amendment during the November 2004 ballot. Amendment 7 guarantees patients the right to “have access to any records made or received in the course of business by a health care facility or provider relating to any adverse medical incident.”
Amendment 7 states:
(a) In addition to any other similar rights provided herein or by general law, patients have a right to have access to any records made or received in the course of business by a health care facility or provider relating to any adverse medical incident.
(b) In providing such access, the identity of patients involved in the incidents shall not be disclosed, and any privacy restrictions imposed by federal law shall be maintained.
(c) For purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meanings:
(1) The phrases “health care facility” and “health care provider” have the meaning given in general law related to a patient’s rights and responsibilities.
(2) The term “patient” means an individual who has sought, is seeking, is undergoing, or has undergone care or treatment in a health care facility or by a health care provider.
(3) The phrase “adverse medical incident” means medical negligence, intentional misconduct, and any other act, neglect, or default of a health care facility or health care provider that caused or could have caused injury to or death of a patient, including, but not limited to, those incidents that are required by state or federal law to be reported to any governmental agency or body, and incidents that are reported to or reviewed by any health care facility peer review, risk management, quality assurance, credentials, or similar committee, or any representative of any such committees.
(4) The phrase “have access to any records” means, in addition to any other procedure for producing such records provided by general law, making the records available for inspection and copying upon formal or informal request by the patient or a representative of the patient, provided that current records which have been made publicly available by publication or on the Internet may be “provided” by reference to the location at which the records are publicly available.
The case before the Florida Supreme Court involved a pretrial discovery dispute in a medical malpractice wrongful death action following the death of the plaintiff’s father while a patient at a health care facility in Florida. The plaintiff had filed her medical malpractice action against the health care facility and various other health care providers. The plaintiff sought records of adverse medical incidents from the health care facility, pursuant to Amendment 7.
The defendant health care facility objected to the production of the records regarding adverse medical incidents for various reasons. A lower Florida appellate court upheld the defendant’s objection “solely on the ground that the request to produce ask[ed] for records of adverse medical incidents involving patients other than the plaintiff but does not limit the production of those records to the same or substantially similar condition, treatment, or diagnosis as the patient requesting access.”
The Florida Supreme Court overturned the decision of the lower appellate court, stating that there was no such restriction in Amendment 7, and remanded the case for reconsideration in light of its decision in a prior case.
If you may be the victim of medical malpractice in Florida or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a Florida medical malpractice attorney (or a medical malpractice attorney in your state) who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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