Secrecy of Doctors and Hospitals

A bill on the way to the governor's desk will keep private the names of hospitals, doctors and others involved in "near misses" where patients could have been seriously injured or killed.

Doctors say the bill will encourage reporting of near misses and protect them from frivolous lawsuits.

Near misses happen in hospitals every day, but you won't know which hospital, nursing home or doctor was involved under a bill awaiting Jeb Bush's signature.

Rep. Donald Sullivan is a doctor himself. He says he voted for the bill to protect people who report the incidents from greedy lawyers.

"The minute you start publishing the names of everyone who's been involved in an incident, these people will be descended upon by every trial attorney trying to make a buck," says Rep. Donald Sullivan, (R) Largo.

The public records exemption is also supposed to encourage medical practitioners to report bad incidents, knowing their names will be kept confidential.

But critics are outraged. They say this bill will prevent you from knowing whether your healthcare provider is a disaster waiting to happen. The First Amendment Foundation's Barbara Petersen says the frivolous lawsuit argument is bogus because patients' names are also kept private. She says this bill just sweeps too much information under the rug.

"Most people want to know that that doctor, that hospital, that nursing home, is not making a mistake, and a near miss, I mean, how many near misses until you hit the target?" says Barbara Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation.

Lawmakers who tried in vain to defeat the measure says it's a perfect example of the bad bills that can get passed at the end of session.

"This is the time when I get most afraid and fear that things get thrown together and thrown at us and there's never time to really explain it and the bills come flying now and this is when the worst of things can happen to the state," says Rep. Ron Greenstein, (D) Coconut Creek

Jeb Bush hasn't said whether he'll sign the bill, but he's supported efforts to protect doctors from medical malpractice lawsuits in the past.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Jeb Bush says when he receives the bill keeping the names of people involved in near misses confidential, he'll review it thoroughly before deciding whether to sign it.


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