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New laws in Florida hurt medical malpractice victims

The state of Florida recently passed a pair of laws that hurt patients who have medical malpractice claims. Under one of the new laws, when a patient is hurt by a physician that doctor's lawyer can go out and talk to the patient's other doctors without first obtaining the permission of the patient. Many people view this as an invasion of privacy since, under most circumstances, nobody is permitted to talk to a patient's physician without the patient's permission. The new law in Florida changes that and the only limitation is that the conversations cannot take place after the patient has filed a formal lawsuit.

According to news reports, some patients have filed a lawsuit to have the law declared invalid. It remains to be seen whether that will be successful.

There is no question that this sort of law will hurt patients who have legitimate malpractice claims because it will give doctors' lawyers access to private information of the patient that they would otherwise not be able to get without the patient's permission. For example, in Pennsylvania and in most other states, nobody, lawyer or otherwise, is authorized to speak to a patient's physician unless they have written permission to do so.

It is only natural that one doctor will have a tendency to cooperate with another doctor and help them avoid malpractice liability. Thus, when a lawyer for a doctor who has injured a patient goes out and speaks to one of the patient's other doctors, it can put that second doctor in a a conflict of interest where they are providing information that hurts their own patient and helps a fellow doctor.

The other law requires that expert witnesses must practice the exact specialty that is practiced by the doctor who is being sued. Apparently under the law it doesn't matter if the expert practices in a related field that overlaps with the specialty of the doctor who is sued. This law is more restrictive than the law in Pennsylvania which permits experts to testify as long as they are at least in a field related to the specialty of the defendant doctor. Laws like those in Florida will hurt patients who bring lawsuits because it will make it harder to obtain expert witnesses to support the case.

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