On Jan. 24, 2020, a bill designed to allow the creation of an investigative body to look into elder abuse deaths began its fourth attempt at passage according to the Cherokee Tribune & Ledger News. The Florida fatality team bill, proposed by Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, has failed to pass three times in the past three years but proponents are encouraged that his attempt will finally bring success.
The Florida fatality team bill, formally known as SB 400, would authorize, each of Florida’s 20 states attorneys to create an elder abuse fatality review team in each of their respective judicial circuits. This team would be composed of volunteer members from law enforcement agencies, medical examiners offices, area agencies for aging, the Florida Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, and the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). The Florida fatality team bill also allows for other organizations and advocates to volunteer on an approval basis. Additionally, the Florida fatality team bill does not require this action to be undertaken but does give the state’s attorneys the option to use these teams in their investigations.
Under the Florida fatality team bill, the volunteer corp would be tasked with examining “events leading up to the fatal incident” including any available community resources that were unused, actions taken by organizations or individuals, or law and policy that may have contributed to the resident’s death. The ultimate goal of the Florida fatality team bill would be to identify shortcomings in nursing home services and make policy proposals and recommendations to prevent events from repeating themselves.
The process of the Florida fatality team bill began in 2017, after Senator Gibson, like many other Floridians, read the USA TODAY investigation into 54 Florida nursing home deaths in the previous four years which featured neglect, abuse and, mistreatment as factors for death according to investigators. With almost 32% of Florida’s 21 million citizens at least 60 years old, it has become increasingly important to investigate and punish instances of neglect and abuse among elderly residents.
One prominent criticism of previous attempts to pass the Florida fatality team bill is the limiting stipulation that the volunteer teams would only review fatal incidents in which state attorneys have closed the case and identified elder abuse or neglect as a cause or contributor to the death. One positive aspect of the bill, however, is that due to its volunteer nature, Florida Senate analysis of the bill declared that it wouldn’t create any new costs and the only expenses expected would be administrative costs that would be absorbed by the existing organizations.
For more information about how to pursue a wrongful death claim for a nursing home resident, visit the National Association of Nursing Home Attorneys’ Wrongful Death Page.