Supreme Court Upholds Patients Right To Know

Representing Orlando, Tampa, Miami and Nearby Areas of Florida

On March 6, 2008 the Supreme Court of the State of Florida upheld the amendment to the Florida Constitution giving patients the right to know the details of “adverse medical incidents” involving their physicians and hospitals. Several ballot initiatives were passed to amend the Florida Constitution in the contentious 2004 election season during which the health care industry led an aggressive campaign attacking the trial bar.

 

The goal of the health care and insurance industries in seeking a constitutional amendment to limit attorneys’ fees in medical negligence cases was to discourage trial attorneys from accepting medical malpractice cases. Florida trial attorney groups and consumer groups responded by seeking an amendment giving patients certain rights. One result was Section 25, Article X, giving patients the right to previously privileged and confidential “peer review” and “work product” incident reports concerning “adverse incidents” occuring during the provision of medical services.

The health care industry has fought ferociously for four years to have appeals courts interpret the amendment in a way that would maintain secrecy of these incident reports. The Supreme Court of Florida not only upheld the patients’ right to know under Section 25, Article X, but made it clear that it applies retroactively to incident reports prepared prior to its effective date. The Supreme Court opinion also held that the amendment overrides old recognized privileges, such as the so-called “peer review” privilege, that have historically given health care providers the legal right to maintain the secrecy of these “adverse incident reports”, often depriving medical malpractice victims of the right to know why they were hurt by the profession whose job was to heal them.

Hopefully, answers will now come easier to medical malpractice victims and their counsel, and the details of tragic events will no longer remain well kept secrets of the medical profession. If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice, call CGWC for a free consultation.

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