Would you waive the right to sue your doctor for malpractice?
If a nascent bill just approved by the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee gains traction, Sunshine State residents may be required to do just that before the nurse can say, "The doctor will see you now."
The plan would allow doctors and other health care providers to require patients to waive their right to a jury trial and instead submit any future malpractice claims to arbitration. The provision was added to an omnibus bill in the hope of attracting votes from senators who favor tort reform.
Three members of the committee, all lawyers, criticized the plan as unconstitutional.
Sen. Arthenia Joyner called it a "blatant infringement on a citizen's constitutional right to access the court" and predicted that patients would sign away their rights without reading or understanding the waiver.
Sen. David Simmons called the plan "fundamentally unfair." "Sometimes physicians try to do things that only hurt themselves, and this is one of them," he added.
Orlando attorney Alexander Clem warned that such a waiver would allow physicians to essentially "pencil in" how much they would be responsible for in a malpractice claim.
In the bill's defense, co-sponsor Sen. John Thrasher said it would help lower medical and health insurance costs for patients. "This is not about doctors and lawyers, this is about what I believe is the largest hidden tax that we pay in the state of Florida, and that is the defense of medicine," he said.
Jeff Scott, a lobbyist for the Florida Medical Association, which supports the measure, echoed Thrasher's sentiments. "These provisions are needed, they're warranted and they're fair," he said.
What's your take? Should patients be required to waive their right to a jury trial before they can see a doctor?
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