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In response to the disaster caused by Hurricane Irma to state nursing homes, a proposal has been made to implement a “Nursing Home Bill of Rights”.  But will Florida lawmakers adopt this Nursing Home Bill of Rights? Currently, there is no clear answer.  To many, such a proposal seems like an obvious response, yet it has become a contentious matter for lawmakers.

The proposal is identified as Proposal 88 to the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), which convenes once every twenty years to review proposals to the Florida state constitution.  Proposal 88 would add a formal “Nursing Home Bill of Rights”, including the right “to a safe, comfortable environment for nursing home residents”.

Nursing Home Bill of Rights Debate

Proposal 88 was introduced on the heels of devastation caused by Hurricane Irma, particularly the death of twelve nursing home residents in Florida.  Heat exposure, power outages, and other factors contributed to these deaths.  A board member with the Florida Justice Association argues that a Bill of Rights makes sense with Florida being prone to natural disasters.  Revising the state constitution to ensure that nursing home residents are safe would seem appropriate.

Not only would Proposal 88 outline safety and security measures for natural disasters, but it would also address fundamental issues like residents’ lack of access to court and jury systems.  Brecht Heuchan, who introduced the proposal, argues that arbitration clauses hidden in stacks of paperwork are often difficult for elderly or ill individuals to recognize and understand.  Furthermore, people often feel pressured to sign arbitration agreements because they need skilled care.

On the other side of the coin, the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) argues that arbitration agreements are completely voluntary, and offer a fair method of dispute resolution.  They argue that arbitration is more cost-effective, informal, and expedient than going to court.  Lobbyists for the FHCA further argue that removing the out-of-court option of arbitration would encourage “predatory law practices”.

According to Heuchan, the goal of Proposal 88 is to protect residents.  When nursing home residents get better care and are harmed less, there will be less grounds for lawsuits filed against the facilities.  Establishing a Nursing Home Bill of Rights could help change the environment of the industry and put resident rights back into residents hands.

Proposal 88 passed the first round of CRC committee votes and will be discussed in upcoming public hearings.  If the CRC passes the proposal in a final vote, then Proposal 88 will be on November’s ballot.

Does Florida Need a Nursing Home Bill of Rights?

Nursing home abuse and neglect occurs at an alarming rate.  One of the most unfortunate aspects of abuse and neglect is the fact that many  residents and their loved ones are unaware of their legal rights.  Nursing home residents and their loved ones should be aware of the following:

  • Nursing homes have a legal responsibility to provide care that meets a certain standard of quality and safety. These facilities are required to operate in a manner consistent with state and federal regulations.  Nursing home residents have a legal right to care that meets these standards.
  • Nursing home residents have a right to be informed about policies and procedures related to resident safety. Residents have the legal right to be informed about all policies, services offered, related costs, measures to prevent abuse or neglect, etc.  These policies should be provided to residents prior to their signing any admission documents.
  • Nursing home residents have a right to choose. Residents have a right to be involved in decisions made regarding their care, medical care, treatment, or other services.  These rights are extended to next-of-kin in cases where a resident is unable to make decisions on his or her own behalf, such as in the case of mental illness or incapacitation.

Many families are simply unaware of the legal rights of nursing home residents, or how to protect them.  A formal “Bill of Rights” could help families be better informed and prepared to ensure the best interests of their loved ones.

Learn More about Nursing Home Resident Rights

To learn more about your legal rights as a resident, or as the loved one of a nursing home resident, contact a nursing home abuse attorney.  Brown & Brothers is an award-winning nursing home neglect and abuse law firm offering services to clients throughout Florida.  We can provide you with the guidance you need to ensure that your loved one’s legal rights are protected.

If your loved one has suffered from abuse or neglect, our attorneys will fight aggressively on your behalf, be it through trial or alternative dispute resolution (ADR) measures like mediation, arbitration, or settlement.  Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.  Fill out our online form to get started.

Sources:
http://news.wfsu.org/post/crc-nursing-home-bill-rights-proposal-receives-pushback

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