Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) May 22, 2018 - In 2004, Florida voters approved Amendment 7, giving patients access to all records of medical-care providers’ known as “adverse medical-incident reports.” Recently, however, some have voiced concern surrounding the implementation of the amendment.
As former general counsel to Governor Rick Scott and member of the state Constitution Revision Commission, Tim Cerio feels that even though the 2004 vote found the public in heavy agreement, change is necessary. Cerio, who is currently working alongside the politically-active GrayRobinson law firm, has filed a proposal to alter Amendment 7 to create limits on the records that lawyers have access to for claims against hospitals, doctors and other medical providers.
This proposal would take adverse medical-incident reports and exclude from them the documents that are “protected by federal laws or regulations relating to patient safety quality improvement,” says Cerio. Any access to these reports would not “abrogate attorney-client communications or work product privileges for patients, health care providers, or health care facilities,” he adds.
Cerio claims that his wish is not to overturn the public’s ability to access to these records and that he wants to change the proposal to only slightly limit the accessibility. The adverse medical-incident reports are key to many medical malpractice claims, and any truncation of access would hinder victims’ ability to make cases against doctors who have multiple claims of malpractice against them.
The proposal is based on Cerio’s belief that the original objective of Amendment 7 has been overlooked. With a broadened approach to Amendment 7 that, according to Cerio, was not the initial intention, hospitals are having a difficult time preparing for legal disputes. He says, “There has been a stream of cases that have expanded the impact of Amendment 7 and created an ability for litigants to get information that was not intended. Attorney-client work product is sacrosanct, and for the courts to expand that, I think, is not a good reading of the original intent of Amendment 7.”
There are two extremely conflicting sides to the argument. While case studies express that a hospital withholding documents could allow the defendant to escape seemingly unjustly unscathed, lobbyist Jan Gorrie believes that patient safety should be held as the first priority. Gorrie, who represents hospitals, says, “If your institution didn’t do something right, you want them to take a serious self-examination, which to some degree won’t happen if they don’t have these processes protected.”
The issue is potentially reemerging in the November 2018 ballot for the public to decide what is best for both plaintiffs and defendants of medical malpractice cases. On one side there are the insurance companies and healthcare providers, while on the other there are trial attorneys who want as much access as possible to the victims’ information.
Robert Joyce, a Tampa medical malpractice attorney with the law firm of Joyce & Reyes, said, “Patients have a right to know what they are dealing with. Plaintiffs and their attorneys deserve to have the knowledge necessary to bring a case to justice.”
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