Florida Supreme Court Protects Access to Medical Malpractice Records

In a significant medical malpractice decision, the Florida Supreme Court gave patients access to records that document their physician's mistakes and hospital's malpractice.

In a case captioned Charles v. Southern Baptist Hospital of Florida, Inc. the Florida Supreme Court stated that Art. X, § 25(c)(3) of the Florida Constitution provides the public with access to adverse medical incident reports created by health care providers, including incidents involving other patients. The Florida Supreme Court stated that the Florida Constitution provides access to a provider's history of medical malpractice. The purpose of Amendment 7 to the Florida Constitution was to abolish restrictions on access to records documenting histories of doctor malpractice and hospital negligence. Although there are federal laws that provide for a separate patient safety evaluation systems, the creation of these systems does not impair Florida patient's rights to obtain historical information pertaining to nursing negligence and pharmacist malpractice. Federal law does not affect the disclosure requirements of Florida law or local ordinances. Florida has many statutes and regulations that require health care providers to create and maintain adverse medical incident reports, including reports to risk management programs.

Florida statutes require health care providers to keep adverse medical incident reports. The Florida Constitution gives individuals the right to access these records describing medical negligence by their health care providers. State law requires health care providers to keep records of adverse incidents and the right to review and copy these records is enshrined in the Florida Constitution. Although documents created and placed into a federally created patient safety evaluation system are privileged and confidential, the act of placing records into this system does not shield them from disclosure to the public. Additionally federal law does not limit a health care provider's obligation to keep these records. Reports of malpractice are not considered patient safety work product because Florida statutes and administrative regulations require providers to create and maintain these records. The Florida Constitution provides patients with a constitutional right of access to review and copy these records.

To speak with a Palm Beach County medical malpractice lawyer, contact Matthew Lane & Associates, P.A. at (561) 651-7273.

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