A Wrongful Death Occurred, Here is What to Do Next!
Every organization has it's place and a job to do. Even though you are denied access to a court of law when medical malpractice causes wrongful death, there are still some things you can do to create noise about the injustice. This noise is really important because collectively if there is enough noise the volume goes up and the chances of being heard become greater.
While the chances of your voice being heard are larger if you are within Florida's two year statute of limitations, I encourage you to file complaints even if the time window has passed. These organizations will still receive your complaint and you will add to the pile of what must be noticed in order to promote change.
1. Obtain the complete medical record of your loved one:
*The next of kin is entitled to this information and may bring an original copy of the death certificate to the medical records department of any hospital or medical facility in order to collect a copy of the record.
*Often times when a medical record is requested a hospital will quickly provide a summary of the record. It is important to request the full record containing complete medical procedures and medication records along with physician and nurses notes.
*Request the medical record be supplied on a CD in a *PDF format - medical records can be long. My father's record from his 3 day admission was well over 200 pages. This can be very challenging to copy and send in the mail. A PDF can be emailed easily as an attachment.
2. Find an expert to review the medical file on your behalf, if possible. This does not have to be a legal expert, but rather a medical professional willing to give you their time. It can be heart wrenching to review it yourself, but if you can bring yourself to do it, researching the information in the file is paramount. No agency wants to review thousands of pages in order to locate the medical errors which contributed to the wrongful death. Locate the page numbers that contain these medical errors and make a list of them so that they can be included in your complaints. Some professions that can review a medical file include:
*A Physician's Assistant
3. Click here to locate the complaint form for the Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA). In MOST circumstances this agency can only follow up to address any general hospital policies and procedures, they typically do not have authority to address individual medical files. They will however make noise around general practices if they see fit. They also notify the complainant during their process of any follow ups they make.Tips:
*Keep your complaint concise, report only to facts related to medical errors. Comments about rudeness or human interaction will be disregarded but if present, take away from the impact of actual errors.
*If possible, when mentioning medical errors in your complaint refer to page numbers within your lost loved one's medical record. This will make it easier for the reviewer to address your complaint.
4. Click here to locate the complaint form for the Florida Department of Health to file a complaint against the physician in charge of your loved one's care and/or against the individual(s) who committed the deadly medical errors. This department again will not review your loved one's specific issue of medical errors. They will however document the errors of the medical professionals. One can only hope that if enough documented wrongful deaths occur that the medical practitioner will be at least called out if not have their license to kill revoked.
*Yes their system is antiquated! They require that you send the form in by way of snail mail. The address is located at the bottom of the form.
*Within the form they ask for a printed copy of the medical record. Don't let this put you off. Nobody wants to copy and incur the cost of mailing 10,000 pages! Simply write on the form that you would like to e-mail the digital file that you received from the hospital and ask for contact information for an e-mail address. It may take a few weeks but they will provide an e-mail pathway.
5. File a complaint with the Joint Commission, click here for instructions. This organization provides accreditation of hospitals. They score hospitals nationwide on their compliance with safety practices. They will not address your loved one's medical error. They will however address the hospital for broken procedures that put patients at risk in general. If a hospital loses accreditation they lose the ability to collect Medicare, Medicaid and more. This complaint will make the hospital take notice.
6. File a complaint with the medical facility's Risk Management Department:
*In Florida there is zero requirement for hospitals to provide a complaint form. It is common practice for Risk Management to offer to accept your complaint verbally. Do not accept this. E-mail your complaint and ask for your e-mail to be accepted as documentation of your complaint.