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Florida Supreme Court holds Florida patients are entitled to access to hospital adverse incident reports, in spite of federal statute.   

Scales of justice for injury lawyer

Florida Supreme Court holds Florida patients are entitled to access to hospital adverse incident reports, in spite of federal statute.   

For many decades, there were laws on the books in Florida which specifically prevented patients from having access to information about adverse medical incidents and patient injuries within hospitals, including even information about mistakes made in the patient’s own medical care.   In 2004, Florida voters approved an amendment to the Florida Constitution changing the law and allowing wide access to hospital adverse incident records.  This change to the Florida Constitution is often referred to as the “Patient’s Right to Know” law.  The hospitals hate this constitutional change, and 15 years after the change, they still raise every obstacle they can think of to deny people access to this information.   In this case, the plaintiff in a medical malpractice case sought copies of adverse medical incident reports, and the hospital gave some of the information, but refused to give up some other important records, arguing the records were privileged “patient safety work product” (or “PSWP”) under the Federal Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act (“PSQIA”).  PSQIA is a voluntary federal program intended to gather and analyze data about healthcare errors in order to improve patient safety.  In order to encourage participation, PSQIA includes various provisions making the information submitted by providers privileged and confidential.  In a great ruling for the citizens of Florida, the Florida Supreme Court found that the federal statute does not keep patients of Florida hospitals from exercising their State Constitutional rights to access the information just because the information has also been voluntarily submitted by a hospital to the federal database.   Charles v. Southern Baptist Hospital of Florida, Inc., 209 So. 3d 1199 (Fla. 2017).

McMillen Law Firm Comment:  Hospital lawyers have not given up trying to avoid complying with the Florida Constitution.  This issue is now being litigated by hospitals in the federal courts.

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