JACKSONVILLE, Fla — The fight to repeal Florida’s so-called ‘Free Kill’ law is back ahead of the 2024 legislative session and this time, one of Jacksonville’s local state lawmakers is leading the charge.
The 30-year-old law prevents medical malpractice lawsuit being brought on behalf of certain people, and for the family members who have lost loved ones due to mistakes made by doctors, finding out they have no legal recourse can be devastating.
“My dad was an old soul. He played the acoustic guitar, he worked on old cars. He was full of life. He loved life and he was so proud of service in the Navy,” said Sabrina Davis, an advocate pushing for the repeal of the ‘Free Kill’ law.
Sabrina’s father Keith Davis went into the hospital suffering severe leg pain back in 2020.
The 62-year-old Navy veteran had a history of blood clots.
Sabrina and her father both suspected that was the cause of his pain, but his doctor disagreed.
“My dad even texted me and said I could be sitting here with a clot and Dr. Moorthy doesn’t even care. Five days later dead of a nine-inch-long blood clot,” said Sabrina.
Sabrina was heartbroken.
She took her case to the state, and the Agency for Health Care Administration determined her father’s death to be due to medical malpractice.
“All the signs and symptoms were ignored. The doctor made a conscious disregard for my father’s life,” said Sabrina.
That’s when she learned of Florida’s so-called ‘Free Kill’ law, which shields doctors from malpractice civil suits if the victim is a single adult over the age of 25 with no children under the age of 25.
It not only prevents adult children from suing on behalf of their single parents, like in Sabrina’s case, but also parents from suing on behalf of their single adult children.
Florida is the only state in the nation with such a carveout.
“To find out about this law, it really scares me for the people in this category. The tourists, autism, down syndrome, people with disabilities who come to Florida, it’s basically saying their life matter less, when it doesn’t,” said Sabrina.
Sabrina has been fighting ever since to see the ‘Free Kill’ carveout removed.
In recent years legislative efforts have failed to gain traction, especially in the Senate, but this year, State Senator Clay Yarborough (R-Jacksonville) has taken up the issue.
“I want to make sure that we do something to change the law because we’re really sending a message that we value some lives over others,” said Yarborough.
Yarborough’s bill attempts to strike a compromise between the impacted families and the medical community, which has objected to a repeal over concerns it would increase malpractice lawsuits and raise malpractice insurance rates for doctors.
The new legislation allows for victims’ family members to petition a Department of Health probable cause panel.
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If probable cause for malpractice is found, those family members would then be able to pursue damages in the courts.
“If we pass it, then you would have an avenue to get to court and let your case be heard,” said Yarborough.
Four various iterations of a ‘Free Kill’ repeal have been filed this year, with some going even further than Yarborough’s bill.
Sabrina said his bill would be a great first step, but hopes in the end, a full repeal will pass.
“What is important here and how should we move forward to raise the standard of care in Florida make it a safer place for our patients. That is the question they will have to ask themselves,” said Sabrina.
Of those the four bills filled ahead of the 2024 Session, Sabrina said she’s pulling the hardest for the full repeal filed in the House.
That bill, “The Keith Davis Family Protection Act”, is named in honor of her father.