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Hospitals Hampering Florida’s Right To Know Amendment

December 12, 2011
Bonnie Navin

The Miami Herald recently reported that Florida hospitals are finding ways to hamper patients’ access to medical records as provided in the voter-approved provision of the Florida Constitution.

Seven years ago, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a Constitutional amendment that allows patients access to hospital records of adverse incidents involving medical procedure errors and poor care.  According the Herald, “[t]he Patient’s Right to Know Act was hailed as a major victory for individuals seeking to know more about their hospitals and doctors.  But it hasn’t always worked out that way.”  

The Herald highlights the recent case of Harlan Ginsberg, who presented to Margate’s Northwest Medical Center in 2006 complaining of kidney stones.  Mr. Ginsberg alleged that the physician who performed the surgery to remove the stone mistakenly cut a tube that delivered urine to his bladder and removed a kidney that another physician testified was healthy.

As part of the litigation, Ginsberg’s attorney requested records of other adverse incidents, as permitted by the Constitutional amendment.  The Hospital first refused to release the records, and then said that it would only produce the records if Ginsberg would pay $77,550 in advance for their release.  The Hospital alleged that such administrative costs were warranted due to the many hours needed to compile the requested records.

Ginsberg’s attorney filed a motion with the Court to compel the records, but did not get a ruling.  He withdrew the motion to expedite trial.  Thereafter, the plaintiff lost the case before the jury.

The case has caught the attention of the Florida First Amendment Foundation.  The Foundation’s President has said that hefty fees such as those imposed in the Ginsberg case are “ridiculous” and “amount to an effective denial of access.”

Ginsberg’s attorney is considering an appeal.