Physician: Before I agree to treat you, I need you to sign an arbitration agreement and a limitation of liability agreement.
Patient: What are those and why do I need to sign them?
Physician: Oh, they are nothing really for you to worry about. They only apply to you if I make an error while I am treating you and cause you damage.
Patient: So, we are starting our relationship off with an assumption that you will hurt me while treating me and, if you do, I should limit your liability for that error?
Physician: Well, I guess you could put it that way, but I prefer to look at it as you agreeing that you have faith in me as a physician and that none of that will ever really matter anyway.
Patient: I prefer that I get to keep my constitutional rights and that you buy insurance in case you screw up while treating me and cause me big bucks in further medical treatment as a result of your error.
Physician: Well, if you are going to be disagreeable before I even start treating you, I am not sure I want you as a patient.
Patient: If you are more worried about yourself, I am certain I do not want you as my doctor.
Physician: Good luck finding another one – we are all together on this one!
And so will go the discussions had in doctor’s offices and in hospitals if Senate Bills 1316 or 1506 are passed by the legislature in Florida and allowed to become law by the governor.
These bills include (3) major changes in Florida law to, once again, favor doctors over patients. It was not sufficient for hospitals and doctors to have capped damages they may have to pay in the event they negligently harm a patient. That legislation went into effect several years ago.
Now your doctor wants:
- To be able to speak with your other physicians without your permission and without the presence of you or your attorney; if you make a claim against your doctor over negligent care.
- To make it much harder to prove a case of negligence by requiring the nearly the same standard of proof required in a murder case.
- To be able to convince patients to sign mandatory arbitration agreements preventing patients from being allowed to file a lawsuit for negligence.
- To convince patients to sign an agreement further limiting the amount of damages, which can be collected in the event the physician or hospital negligently harms the patient.
All in all, what a nice little bill for the protection of doctors and hospitals.
What is the net effect of bills like this? They are chilling since they allow health care providers to apply the threat of no signature – no treatment to patients. If patients refuse to give up constitutional rights by signing the agreements with physicians and hospitals, they may find the ability to get treatment is difficult.
The practical problem with this type of procedure is that most patients blindly sign the forms given to them by physicians and hospitals without really giving them thought or considering the effect they could have upon them.
Physicians have long abandoned the credo contained in the Hippocratic Oath: “I will apply measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.
Keeping their patients from “injustice” apparently was lost along the way.