DeSantis pressed to veto bill preventing families from suing health providers over COVID

Legislation would provide liability protection to health-care providers that follow “government-issued health standards.”

Updated: February 23, 2022 - 12:02am

At least 35 organizations have called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto a bill that would prevent patients and families from suing health-care providers over COVID-19-related injuries, deaths and lack of treatment.

The bill, SB 7014, “COVID-19-related Claims Against Health Care Providers,” was presented to the governor Feb. 17. He has until Thursday to veto, sign, or ignore it. By ignoring it, according to the state constitution, the bill would become law, effective immediately.

“We know you share with us the core values of protecting life, individual liberty and the freedom of medical choice,” R. Shawn McBride, with the American Freedom Information Institute, who signed the letter, said. “Yet what has happened – on countless occasions – and will continue to happen in Florida if this law is adopted, is that Floridians are being denied treatment, checked into hospitals and cut-off from their loved ones and medical decision makers. At that point the patient loses control and the hospital uses the protocols they decide in many cases not even following the patient's care decisions.”

Submitted for consideration by Judiciary on Nov. 22 last year, the bill “extends the duration of liability protections from COVID-19-related claims against health care providers.”

According to the bill analysis, the legislature “determined that special civil liability protections against COVID19-related claims were essential for the survival of individuals, businesses, health care providers, and other organizations. In an effort to protect those entities that contributed to the overall wellbeing of the state,” the legislature passed the bill. It passed by a vote of 87-31 in the House and 22-13 in the Senate.

The bill would provide liability protection to health-care providers that follow “government-issued health standards” that “include the CDC's Covid-19 guidelines, which many say aren't working. Some medical professionals have stated that these CDC protocols have led to unnecessary medicines, ventilation and deaths.”

If the bill goes into law in its current form, health-care providers “could simply follow the CDC's guidelines against their patient's wishes and re-main free from liability,” they argue.

Joining McBride were groups including Freedom Flyers Political Action, Medical Freedom Coalition, Florida Citizens Alliance, among others. They collectively represent hundreds of thousands of members and participants.

When asked about the letter, DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw told The Center Square, “The governor’s office has received the letter and is aware of the concerns raised by patient advocates. We will most likely have an update to share with you later this week. Governor DeSantis is working to ensure that patients’ rights are protected in Florida and that healthcare providers are free to use their best judgment to treat patients.”

At a Feb. 2 press conference, DeSantis said the legislature would be working on a package to protect health-care rights for patients.

In response to a question from a reporter with The Alachua Chronicle, DeSantis said, “COVID cannot be used as an excuse to deny patients’ basic rights. … So we’re going to have some type of Patient’s Bill of Rights… and also, in nursing homes, too.”

When asked if he supported “right-to-try” laws, he answered, “Yes–honestly, that should be the law anyway. … I believe in the principle of right-to-try… and our Surgeon General said this too: It’s totally inappropriate to crack down on a physician for practicing medicine."

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