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Your Right to Know About Adverse Medical Incidents

If you are a patient at a hospital, don’t you think you should have the right to know whether anything bad happened to you while you were there?

For years, health care providers in Florida were able to withhold records from a patient that were created as a direct result of an adverse medical incident (when bad things happen) that occurred during that patient’s care.  In 2004, Floridians overwhelmingly voted against this practice, amending the State Constitution to give patients the right to access to all records made or received as a result of an adverse medical incident. That amendment is generally referred to as “Amendment 7” because it was the 7th amendment when it was approved.

The pertinent part of Amendment 7 sets forth:

SECTION 25. Patients’ right to know about adverse medical incidents.—

(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.

Records involving an “adverse medical incident” are any records pertaining to 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.

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Since the passage of “Amendment 7”, health care providers have asserted a laundry list of confusing and flawed objections in an attempt to continue withholding records of adverse medical incidents from their patients.  The obvious harm of this conduct was that the patient was still prevented from accessing records relating to adverse medical incidents concerning that patient’s care, even when the law mandated that the patient should have access to those records.  Secondarily, the different circuit and appellate courts throughout the State were faced with the task of ruling on these objections, which resulted in inconsistent rulings governing the production of the patient’s records depending on the jurisdiction.

Fortunately, on January 12, 2012, the Supreme Court of Florida put an end to the improper withholding of patient records related to adverse medical incidents in the case of WEST FLORIDA REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, INC., etc. vs. LYNDA S. SEE, et al. (No. SC09–1997).  The Court rejected all of the objections and arguments made on behalf of the hospital, and reaffirmed the unambiguous language and intent of Amendment 7, which serves to provide patient access to records concerning adverse medical incidents, without boundaries.

Even with the recent ruling from the Supreme Court, hospitals and health care providers will undoubtedly continue to create new ways to unlawfully withhold records from patients concerning adverse medical incidents.

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of medical malpractice it is important for you to contact an attorney specializing in the field to obtain these records; they are often vital to your case and will not be provided to you without a fight.

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