In Florida medical malpractice lawsuits rarely lead to disclipline

Medical malpractice cases in Florida have consistently been seen as an issue, but the state health officals rarely take any action against doctors. Under the law, doctors must report all malpractice lawsuits even when closed. However, little action is being taken towards getting these dangerous doctors out of practice.

Florida lawmakers have called this situation a “medical malpractice crisis.” In 1988 a state law placed a limit on the amount of damages patients could receive against doctors in court and created a division to regulate doctors.

However, lawyers who have participated in malpractice lawsuits across Florida claim that they are not usually contacted by the state Department of Health once a case has been settled. Some attorneys say they have even given up on the state to take action agaisnt these doctors.

Over five years, Dr. Pachavit Kasemsap has owed almost $3 million in five different medical malpractice cases. In one case, Kasemsap sliced an artery to Christine Murray’s liver while performing gallbladder surgery. A jury ruled that doctor was negligent and ordered him to pay Murray $600,000. However, the doctor did not face any state disciplinary action for his negligent behavior.

The health deparmtnet is required to review all malpractice lawsuits against Florida doctors to identify and discipline them. However, an investigation by the Sun Sentinel found that the deartment’s reviews infrequently lead to punishment.

Dr. Ata Atogho, in the midst of delivering a baby with a weak heart, decided to speak with his stockbroker for eight minutes. Though he knew that the baby needed extra help, he did not perform a caesarian section. As a result the child was born with extreme brain damage. He is now bedridden and requires 24 hour care. Atogho had written in the medical record that the mother did not want a C-section. The nurse claimed that this was a lie and that the mother pleaded multiple times for the emergency procedure.

Though Atogho had three other lawsuits from negligent deliveries in 2013, he has received no disciplinary action and can still deliver babies in Florida.

Florida Supreme Court eliminates parts of 2013 medical malpractice law

On November 9, the Florida Supreme Court found itself disunited. The court rejected multiple aspects of a 2013 medical-malpractice law because the changes “have gashed Florida’s constitutional right to privacy.”

Pieces of the 2013 law, justices said, could potentially allow for patients’ medical information to be disclosed even if it does not relate to the malpractice cases. The 2013 law dealt with problems in the process in which defense attorneys gather information in medical malpractice cases and their “ex parte” communications with plaintiffs’ doctors.

“Ex parte” communications are conversations between defense attorneys and the doctors surrounding the patient’s treatment. The 2013 law allowed these types of discussions to occur without the presence of plaintiffs’ attorneys. In ex parte communications where a judge is not present, communication is undocumented and could result in patient privacy violations.

Florida’s Constitution protects its citizens against violations of privacy to plaintiffs because the ex parte discussions were unrecorded and without the presence of plaintiffs’ attorneys. Based on this interpretation of the Florida Constitution, Justice R. Fred Lewis believed that this 2013 malpractice law was unconstitutional. Justice Lewis was joined by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince in the voting to strike down parts of the law.

However, Justice Charles Canady does not see the law as unconstitutional. He believes that Lewis’s opinion is an “unwarranted interference with the Legislature’s authority.”

Those who support the 2013 law along with Canady argue that these ex parte conversations can generate further information surrounding medical malpractice claims, leading to resolutions before the cases go to trial.

The Supreme Court’s decision, on November 9, overturned the decision made by the First District Court of Appeal.