Fixes to the state’s healthcare guardian program passes House committee

Published: Dec. 12, 2019 at 3:52 PM EST
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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service

December 12, 2019

TALLAHASSEE ,Fla. (CNS) -- Legislation approved in a state House committee Thursday will make it harder for someone acting as a guardian to get a ‘do not resuscitate’ order for someone who does not want to die.

Many who testified in the bill’s first committee said there are many other issues with the state’s guardian program that need to be fixed.

Guardians are appointed by the state to care for people who don’t have family to fill the role.

“We're here today on this particular issue because of somethings that have happened in our state where folks who could not help themselves were harmed,” said Rep Colleen Burton, who is sponsoring the new legislation.

The bill comes in response to a case of a central Florida guardian who signed do not resuscitate orders for people who wanted to live.

If passed, a judge’s approval would be required for a DNR to be put in place.

“It helps folks who cannot help themselves,” said Burton.

Douglas Frank spoke at the bill’s first committee stop.

Frank’s mother, Ernestine, had $2 million drained by a guardian over four years, all while he was fighting to get her back into his care.

“I freed my mom after four and a half years. No one does this,” said Frank.

Frank said the bill doesn’t address financial exploitation by guardians like his mother experienced.

“Right now there is no fear. There is no fear at all because they can do exactly what they want,” said Frank.

While this year’s legislation only addresses the issue of DNR’s, the bill sponsor and families impacted by bad actors in the guardian program hope other issues can be addressed in the future.

Frank said until stiffer criminal penalties are imposed for bad actors he expects the financial exploitation to continue.

“People are going to try to feed off them as long as possible because that's just what they do, that's just how they're wired unfortunately and we need to stop them,” said Frank.

But Frank said this bill is a step towards that goal.

The bill has two more committee stops in the House.

Its Senate companion has yet to be referenced to any committees.