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Florida Supreme Court to decide if ‘patients’ right to know’ applies retroactively

In November 2004, voters in Florida approved a constitutional amendment by an overwhelming 5-1 margin making medical error records in hospitals available to patients. The availability of records would allow prospective clients to assess a physician’s history of errors before signing up for treatment or surgery.

Since enactment, the amendment has been the subject of debate in the legislature and in two lawsuits. Specifically, there’s an argument as to whether the amendment applies retroactively or prospectively. One court has ruled that patients can request records now from dates before the November 2, 2004 enactment date. Another court ruled the records can only be requested for hospitalizations occurring after the November 2, 2004 date.

The issue will now go to the Supreme Court of Florida. The issue is three-fold: when can records connected to medical errors become available to injured patients and potential patients, which records must be disclosed, and can these records be used in medical malpractice lawsuits?

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