Medical malpractice limits emerge as the next health care fight
A year ago this month, Michael Lawley of Melbourne disconnected the respirator that was keeping his brain-damaged daughter alive.
Shannon Lawley had entered a Brevard County emergency room suffering from what an autopsy would later determine was acute pancreatitis. She waited five hours as the understaffed team failed to monitor her vital signs or transfer her to intensive care, her father told the House Subcommittee on Civil Justice last week.
Doctors eventually administered heart medicine without realizing Shannon’s heart was functioning properly, he recalled. She went into cardiac arrest. Her lung collapsed as the medical team attempted resuscitation and her brain was deprived of oxygen for seven minutes, causing irreversible brain damage and gangrene, he said.
“After multiple tests and second opinions, I took her off the respirator and she died two days later,’’ Lawley told the panel. “My daughter deserved better. She didn’t get it. The health care system in Florida failed her.”
Lawley, 60, a certified public account, has no recourse. The state’s medical malpractice laws were rewritten by lawmakers in 2003 and included changes that prevent parents of adult children from recovering most damages. Shannon, a University of Florida graduate with a degree in chemistry, was 31 years old and had no spouse or children.
Now, Lawley wants the law changed, and he’s speaking out.
Bills moving quickly through the Republican-controlled Florida House, and under review in the state Senate, would expand Florida’s medical malpractice laws, adopt legal standards used in other states, and shield hospitals, doctors and nursing homes from lawsuits under certain conditions. Story here.