Dear Governor DeSantis,
We need your help on medical freedom. You have been doing a heroic job of protecting our freedoms in many ways, with executive actions that have kept businesses open and children in school, wise appointments such as Florida Surgeon General Joe Ladapo, and fearless support of such bills as the Free Speech of Health Care Practitioners Act.
The problem is that our medical freedom relies on those executive actions instead of being permanently secured by law. In fact, there are enough gaps in the current statutes that these freedoms could quickly be lost if a less freedom-minded administration came to power.
In fact, there are still laws currently on the books in Florida that, in a declared emergency, can override other laws we have regarding medical freedom, giving absolute authority over our health decisions to unelected bureaucrats. We need to fix these medical freedom issues now to help protect Floridians. It’s the right thing to do. Let’s take the main statutes and issues one by one.
Florida Statute 381.00315
Florida has sweeping forced examination and testing authority. If you look at Florida Statute 381.00315, it provides that, in a public health emergency, the state health officer has wide authority to force people to be quarantined, isolated, examined, tested and treated, with virtually no checks and balances on that authority. Further, this unelected officer can compel law enforcement to force compliance. It is really shocking authority.
Florida Statute 381.003
Another shocking authority is in Florida Statute 381.003, which establishes the state health officer’s general authority to carry out programs for public health. There’s a group of judges who believe that the state health officer can force people to be vaccinated against their will under 381.003. It’s been amended a couple of times recently, but it’s still one of the most extreme forced-treatment laws in the entire United States. Other states have not enacted this type of authority. When they do have authority over things like quarantine and isolation, it is generally tempered by due process, checks and balances. For instance, Minnesota residents can go to court and challenge it. When a New York court threw out their quarantine and isolation law, the judge mentioned serious due process concerns. Why does Florida have a law that is even more strict and problematic than New York’s?
Florida Statute 381.026, Patient’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities
Senate Bill 988, No Patient Left Alone Act
There are gaps in both the Florida Patient’s Bill of Rights and the No Patient Left Alone Act, both of which were recently signed into law. Both laws provide for access to a loved one in a medical facility. However, there are some “gotchas.”
The No Patient Left Alone Act has many conditions on it. Even for routine medical procedures, a family still may not be able to get access to their loved one. The problem is, what is the family’s definition of routine versus the hospital’s definition? Obviously for me if a loved one is in the hospital, I’m very concerned, and I want to make my own judgment about whether a treatment is routine or unusual and the level of danger involved. I don’t necessarily want to defer to the hospital, particularly after what we’ve seen recently. We’ve seen some bad decisions being made in the medical community, and should we be bound by that?
The Florida Patient’s Bill of Rights, 381.026, provides that Floridians can reject medical treatment. However, other law can override it, still subjecting some people to medical treatments against their will. See 381.00315 discussed earlier.
Patient access to treatments
We’re also having issues here in Florida with patient access to treatments. Many hospital patients are denied the treatments they want because once they’re in the hospitals, they’re largely locked into the hospital’s treatment protocols. Several lawyers have tried to get patients alternate treatment and they’ve always hit a brick wall, and the patient often gets stuck with a treatment protocol they or their family wouldn’t have chosen. Many states have passed bills opening up access to certain politically charged medical treatments. At a state level they have allowed the patients to make that choice. Why is Florida lagging behind?
Lack of access to medical records by family members
We need to get the medical records transferred in real time to loved ones so that they can monitor what’s happening. It should be routine to be allowed to see these records if your loved one is in the hospital and you are helping them with their decision making. Remember, a lot of times when somebody’s in the hospital, they’re already under treatment, they’re not feeling well, they may be taking various medicines for their conditions, they may not be in the best decision-making position. They need an advocate there for them, armed with all the information possible. A loved one should have the option of getting an outside doctor, of getting a third-party review. So we need to have full access to medical records.
If advocates have access to the data, it protects the dignity of patients. A patient or their family should ultimately be the ones making decisions on what the patient wants or doesn’t want, what medicines are administered, as long as they find a doctor who agrees with them, even if it isn’t the doctor who they started out with in that hospital. Getting a second opinion about a treatment is the natural recourse. It protects families. It helps keep families together, particularly in those toughest of moments when somebody’s in the hospital, somebody’s sick, somebody’s unwell.
Free Speech of Health Care Practitioners
We have serious issues about medical free speech. The Free Speech of Health Care Practitioners Act did not make it through regular session in 2022 and never got signed into law. Meanwhile, the Winter 2022 issue of The Florida Nursing Quarterly republished a letter from a national nursing regulatory organization saying that nurses who disseminate “misleading or incorrect information” about COVID-19 through “verbal or written methods including social media,” may be disciplined, and that such actions may “place their license and career in jeopardy.”
Medical professionals, both doctors and nurses, should be welcomed, when appropriate, to provide their insights and analysis, especially to challenge whether the policies and procedures are correct. These government entities are not foolproof. They’ve made mistakes in the past, and it is the healthcare providers who will see these mistakes and want to correct them.
We need to be able to rely on our medical community to open up that conversation and have those robust discussions about the data they’re seeing, what they’re learning from patient care, and whether these agencies have made the right decisions. That is part of a fully accountable, transparent, representative republic. We need that process as part of our society to get to the best possible medical care.
Registries for vaccination status should be opt-in, not opt-out, to ensure the right to medical privacy
Medical registries are an issue here in Florida. In many cases, people are automatically opted into registries for vaccination status without their full understanding of it and then have to take steps to opt-out. They should be given the choice to opt-in to these registries. For example, some medical establishments use third-party registries where a person has to reveal their status just to get a doctor’s appointment, with no “opt-in” choice. For some people, they will simply forego seeing the medical provider rather than have their right to medical privacy taken away.
Florida medical laws and medical tourism
A number of people have spoken to me, through my American Freedom Information Institute, who have looked at our forced vaccination law and have chosen to go to other states. We’ve lost opportunities there. People have looked at Florida, considered Florida as a destination, and picked somewhere else. Florida should be a go-to destination for medical tourism. Right now, our medical protections are not leading-edge.
Florida medical laws and retirees
It’s important to continue to encourage people to come to Florida, both tourists and retirees. The problem is, with Florida having these archaic laws, as word gets out and people do the research, they may decide not to come here and that might mean losing retirees, losing that income, losing those valuable residents that keep the Florida economy going.
Strong Florida laws are for our protection
If we get our Florida medical freedom laws strong, it will mean less federal encroachment, less of the federal government telling the Florida citizens what they can and can’t do. It will give us more individual rights. It will install procedures to end rash medical decisions. Certainly we’ve seen a lot of rash medical decisions in the last several years with the emergency environment that has been imposed. There’s been a lot of quick decisions with not enough data analysis. We need to put the brakes on that and make sure we’re protected.
Governor DeSantis, let’s fix these cracks in the medical freedom dam.
Governor DeSantis, I want to see you plant the flag for medical freedom, to fill the gaps that lurk within the statutes, and I want to help you do this. I am willing and able to meet with the you and your representatives to shape legislation that will fix these issues. There are more issues than what I’ve covered here as far as Florida freedom in the medical setting.
I want this to be your legacy, that you filled these cracks so they never became a devastating flood. It’s only a matter of time when these tyrannical laws will be exposed and people find out that Florida is not as free as people think in the medical setting. It’s time we fix that and change that. We can take that leadership. We can make Florida law the leading edge for medical freedom.
R. Shawn McBride, Esq.