ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida lawmakers are promising to be better prepared during the next legislative session to tackle a law that prevents certain families from seeking medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuits.
The calls for change are coming as grieving loved ones share their stories with Channel 9 investigative reporter Karla Ray.
From Marta Crews, who says a medical mistake led to her adult special needs son dying in a Lake County hospital, to Cindy Jenkins, whose 25-year-old daughter Taylor died after doctors failed to diagnose internal bleeding from a crash in Osceola County, more voices are joining the call to change Florida’s so-called “Free Kill Law.”
“The sad part about it is that there is traction because there are always new cases,” Melody Sandberg-McDonald said.
She’s the founder of the Florida Medical Rights Association, a grassroots group that’s pushing lawmakers to change the statute to allow families of those over the age of 25 who have never been married or the adult children of those who die due to medical malpractice, to seek civil damages.
“This week I had three new inquiries on the website,” she said. “If everyone was held accountable, then we would see fewer malpractice cases.”
But lawmakers have tried, and failed, to change the law, including Central Florida Representative Johanna Lopez, who sponsored the most recent legislation that never even made it to a committee hearing.
“This is this is a bill to guarantee safety,” Representative Lopez said.
Lopez plans to bring more stakeholders to the table for the next legislative session, pointing out no other state has such an exception.
“We’re not living in the 1990s anymore, we’re in 2023. So we have to be aligned with the rest of the nation, because this is about our rights,” Lopez said.
But medical malpractice defense attorney Tom Dukes of Orlando says a change could lead to more frivolous lawsuits, meaning higher healthcare costs for everyone.
“It costs in three ways. One, defense of medicine; two, insurance premiums, both health insurance and malpractice insurance premiums; and three, the talent [leaving] the state of Florida,” Dukes said.
Cindy has filed complaints with the Florida Department of Health, which could lead to fines being placed against the practitioners.
“It is business as usual,” Jenkins said. “Our lives have been ripped apart, turned up, and they’ll never be the same again.”
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