Florida’s “Free Kill” Law – A Death Trap for the State’s Populace and Visitors

Melody Page
20
1943

Florida’s Wrongful Death Act, Statute 768.21, provides guidelines for who can bring a medical facility and provider to court in the event that they cause wrongful death to a patient. The answer is frightening given the degree to which deadly medical errors, the third leading cause of death in the US according to the CDC, continue to occur over and over.

The law has been dubbed “Free Kill” by an overwhelming number of advocates. The phrase was initially coined by The Florida Justice Association, but caught on because while it can cost money to correct mistakes, keep hospitals safely staffed and update equipment, it is free to kill. The bottom line is that this law allows hospital shareholders to be more valuable than the human lives it’s costing.

Florida’s Wrongful Death Act leaves more than half of the population in the state unprotected from medical errors and essentially denies residents and visitors alike the right to live once they enter a hospital. Even worse in a state hospital, where even married victims can only sue within a prohibitive cap that exceeds the cost of a lawsuit (see 768.28 Florida’s Sovereign Immunity law for hospitals, Jeb Bush 2005).

The populations most affected are unmarried college students (2.3 million), widowed seniors (6.8 million), veterans returning from war who are yet to be wed or have children, LGBT community members, middle-aged single and divorcee populations whose children have aged beyond age 25, and siblings and parents of the wrongfully deceased. Pretty much every unmarried person in the state with either no children or children over age 25 is a potential victim of Florida’s Free Kill Law.

Over the course of time since this antiquated law’s inception in 1972, put in place by Governor Ruben Askew, several individuals have challenged this law as unconstitutional. Do we not have a right to file a grievance in a court of law (1st Amendment) and the right to pursue life equally without prejudice (14th Amendment)? Apparently not in Florida (see Mizrahi vs. N. Miami Medical, 2000) where the Supreme Court ruled that overturning 768.21 would mean the rise of healthcare costs for all Floridians and therefore they consider Florida just in upholding this statute, in spite of the fact that since 1972 healthcare costs have increased unilaterally across the United States by over 300%.

In addition, this barbaric statute has robbed the Medicaid & Medicare systems since 1972, literally allowing hospitals and medical facilities to steal from the elderly and the poor. In the other 49 states that do not have this law in place, when a wrongful death case is won in a court of law, not only does the family receive payment for loss of contribution, emotional strife, etc, the hospital must also repay the funds that were given by Medicare and/or Medicaid. In Florida, however, more than half of the wrongful death cases which have occurred are not permitted to be brought before a court at all. No court case equals no lawsuits equals no paybacks to these essential federal programs designed to help those in need.

Below, a quick outline of the statute itself.

The following subsections are relevant:

Subsection 3:

free kill

What this means is that in the case of wrongful death of a parent, pertaining to medical facilities and workers, minor children and all children of the deceased are eligible to file a grievance in a court of law.

Subsection 4:

free kill

What this means is that in the case of wrongful death of a minor child, the parent is eligible to sue on behalf of the deceased child. In the case of an adult child’s wrongful death, a parent may also sue on the behalf of the adult child if said adult child has no one else to bring forth a claim. Damages awarded can include mental pain and suffering.

Subsection 5(a)(2):

free kill

Defines a minor child to be a person under the age of 25.

Subsection 8:

free kill

What this means is that none of the people eligible in subsections 3 & 4 can sue on behalf of their deceased loved one when a “claim for medical negligence” or a “claim for medical malpractice” or the failure to render services causes wrongful death.

Additionally there is no mention at all of granting the ability for someone to bring forth a lawsuit if the deceased has no children and was not married. So if a person dies childless or if their children are over age 25, per section 768.18(2) they can become a free kill in the State of Florida. Please take this Free Kill quiz to find out if you are a Florida Free Kill.

Florida is well known for its sunshine and the state attracts many spring breakers, college students and the elderly. The vast majority of the state’s populations are potential free kills.

Two daughters of wrongful death victims, Melody (me) and Debbie, came together after experiencing our own terrible wrongful death tragedies that cost the lives of our fathers.
My father was hospitalized under the Baker Act for “complicated grief” a few hours after my mother died, and heavily sedated with Haldol, Seroquel, Ativan and other drugs. They gave him more and more sedatives until he stopped breathing. To date the only response I have received to my complaint is “We have deemed his care acceptable.” As someone who was raised to be accountable for my own actions, I find it downright appalling that medical facilities and providers can escape accountability in this way.

Debbie and I have started an advocacy program as a platform to share our anger, dismay and grief. Together we have raised awareness, have a registered subscription of over 1500 people, over 20,000 petition signatures and recently, over 500 signatures on a letter to Florida Senate and House Representatives requesting a bill for change. In early 2018 we will form an official non-profit organization (new name pending) in order to take it to the next level in funding advertising and literature.

With verbal support from a few lawmakers we plan to bring “Florida’s Right to Live” amendment to full fruition and are hopeful to see change by 2019. We both have vowed to never give up, and plan to not only continue pushing for change but to kick it up a notch. We have nothing but time, we aren’t going anywhere, and we will see this through. Our dads are already gone, and we can spend the rest of our days changing this law to honor them if we have to.

20 COMMENTS

  1. I’m surprised the Conservative Movement isn’t actively supporting laws like this, since members believe life begins at conception and ends at birth. What better way to get parental confessions than by bashing your children’s heads in until they confessed to countless atrocities, the worst of which is disagreeing with Donald Trump?

  2. Correction: the third leading cause of death is not medical ERRORS, it is RECEIVING MEDICAL CARE IN ANY FORM! Most of the annual death rate is due to PROPERLY PRESCRIBED AND PROPERLY ADMINISTERED MEDICATION. Tens of thousands are killed by psychiatric drugs alone. And these are just the ones they ADMIT are due to medical treatment.

    Such a law is crazy, as it lets the medical system off the hook for the damage they are causing every single day.

  3. I happen to be a Florida resident who is in this Florida Free Kill zone you mention. I would worry about going into the hospital for any reason at this point.

    The exception in the 50 states. We need to do something about this law. If we did, it would certainly make hospitals in state hesitate before recklessly over medicated people, and there’s no way I wouldn’t see that as a good thing. I’ve seen some of the damage that has come of over dosing people in this state, and it’s not pretty. As is, they don’t have much to lose, they’re protected by bad law, very bad law, and this bad law is only there to save the state money.

    I really think that some facilities, hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, etc., here are so bad that the federal government is going to need to be called in at some point. We shall see.

    Great post. Thanks you for putting this out there.

    • I’d like to thank Melody as well for alerting us to this issue and for fighting to turn her loss into change! Also wanted to know if she or Frank (or any other friendly Floridian) could tell us a bit more about the Baker Act. This is Florida’s temporary-involuntary-commitment law, which was used to hospitalize Melody’s father. It seems to be WAY worse than most other state laws which are already bad enough. From what I have heard, almost anyone can call the police to report that you’re “at risk” of harming yourself or others, and have you transported to a hospital for “assessment”.

      Have I got that right? How was this law “sold” to the public as a good thing, and is there any public rebellion against it now?

      • The Baker Act is basically a 72 hour or 3 day hold, detention, for observational purposes. Other states, in general, have similar laws. I’ve been Baker Acted myself, long ago, but I was lucky enough to have caring family that aided me in getting released. Getting Baker Acted can lead to a civil commitment which is a much bigger problem as I’ve heard that people on average do about 3 years when committed to the nearest state hospital.

        I think, as I wrote above. that Florida is due. over one thing or another, to have the federal government come in and try to straighten things out. That’s what I’ve seen happen at one time in the state of Virginia, and I think ultimately it’s going to come down to that for Florida. States can pass laws in violation of federal (constitutional) law, but if enough problems ensue (uncompensated death & injury), the government is going to come in to bring the state back in line.

  4. “We have deemed his care acceptable.” I ran into a somewhat similar, no doubt greed inspired, problem in Illinois. The ELCA Advocate Good Samaritan hospital, at which this now FBI convicted Medicaid/Medicare and Blue Cross/Blue Shield defrauding, attempted murdering, and likely mass murdering doctor used to work, claimed his medically unneeded crimes against patients to be “acceptable medical care.” Obviously, the FBI disagreed.

    https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndil/pr/oak-brook-doctor-convicted-kickback-scheme-sacred-heart-hospital

    It is a shame the third leading murderers of Americans, today’s mainstream medical community, are not intelligent enough to understand that killing people is unacceptable human behavior, even for doctors. No doubt our medical “professionals” lost their minds long ago, and may someday lose their souls, due to their seemingly insatiable greed.

    Kudos on your efforts, Melody, and my condolences on your father’s death.

  5. Don’t hold your breath, Frank. At the present, you’re more likely to hear platitudes about States’ Rights and personal responsibility (“why should we be responsible for you when you haven’t been responsible for yourself, etc.”). You’ll be lucky if you don’t turn into a serial killer of politicians, using commonplace items found in hospitals as weapons.

  6. Okay, I will hurry and get a quick-fix doctor license and set up practice in Florida. That’s the safest state for me. I don’t have to worry about being sued if I kill a patient. Maybe, in fact, it’s safer to kill than to maim, so I might pull the plug on someone to avoid a lawsuit. Ah, the life…I’ll see you on the golf course.

    In all seriousness, best of luck with this! And…I found this post as “sponsored content” on Facebook. Wow, MIA getting up in the world.

  7. I am very sorry for your loss, and I admire you for not accepting it peacefully!

    In my experience Seroquel can seriously obstruct the heart; Haldol can seriously obstruct breathing; and Attivan will send a person to sleep. The combination of these three drugs could be like a “Medical Execution”.

    Seroquel is banned in the USA Army because young men on it were dying in their sleep.

    I was prescribed (solely) 25mg of Seroquel per night for a number of years; but I found about 6mg to be ideal. What i noticed on this tiny dose was, that when I woke up, my chest area was a soft red and the rest of me a distinct white. I also experienced very frightening “drops” on heart beats – which stopped when I discontinued the Seroquel.

    I experienced dreadful breathing problems on initial exposure to Haldol. These breathing problems were very physically traumatic for me, even though I was 20 years old at the time.

    I tried Ativan once from a friend, and I was straight “out”.

    • I believe Dr.Peter Breggin mentions many SSRI drugs have been effectively used as chemical castration for sex offenders.

      I have always been grateful for that side effect myself. No man could ever love a “bipolar” madwoman after all. Why want what you can’t have?

      Too old and sick for romance now at 44 after 25+ years on drugs. None of the single men my age are worth 2 cents anyhow.

      • I just gotta say something! Your comment made me laugh, but in a good way. I’ve always been attracted to “crazy”, and “troubled” women, but I’m pushing 60 now. 44 is NOT old, but the 25+ years on drugs, well, yeah, I see what you mean. And I live in a “single woman desert”. Years ago, I used to go to “Yahoo Personals”, and “Match.com”, etc., and there’d be like NO single women my age in my town! Sorry I don’t have any solutions, or words of wisdom for you, but at least you know you’re not alone in your alone-ness. Something like that. You know what I mean! Being single sux sometimes, but after 20+ years clean and sober, and away from the psychs madness, life’s pretty good, all things considered. There’s worse than “boring”, and “lonely”. At least I’m fairly happy. Hope your 2018 gets better!

        • Thank you Bill. There are some nice men in Hoosier-land. All married. Also some nasty married men. Family friendly.The churches I attend overlook me or mock me for being an “old maid.”

          Keep getting told I’m washed up and have lost all value. 25 is hopelessly old for women according to some guys. Odd since we live longer. And most older men aren’t as buff as George Clooney.

          I’m not that picky about looks myself and don’t date guys under 40 (usually.) Get tired of guys my age telling me how old, washed up and ugly I am.

          Anyone who says crap that cruel to a woman (however physically unattractive) would make a rotten husband anyhow. So it doesn’t matter after all.

          No, you aren’t “too old.” Upset at some creepy over-aged adolescents. Weird how the biggest jerks never get labeled mentally ill. They confine their jerky, cruel behavior to socially appropriate ways and run for public office.

  8. Not sure this would make any difference in the psych realm, since they can already kill with impunity. I guess bashing our heads in with a sledge hammer might be illegal, but if the shrink sets the electroshock machine too high or we get killed from drug overdoses it’s perfectly legal. Accidental? Impossible to disprove. No one cares anyhow.