Governor Signs Bill Protecting Health Care Patients from Malpractice

Patients seeking pelvic examinations in Florida will now have a new layer of protection when interacting with health care professionals.

On Thursday, June 18, Gov. Ron DeSantis, R- Fla., signed a total of 21 new bills. Among these bills was Senate Bill 698 – the Reproductive Health bill.

A key aspect of the bill is its requirement for health care providers to obtain written consent from patients before performing pelvic examinations, unless under extreme circumstances where immediate examination is necessary, or a court order requires it for the use of evidence.

The bill defines pelvic examinations as any series of tasks requiring the examination of reproductive organs or pelvic tissues such as the vagina, uterus and ovaries. It demands health care practitioners and medical students be held responsible for wrongdoings regarding pelvic examinations.

Depending on the type of malpractice, the discipline for health care professionals under the new bill ranges from a suspended medical license to a felony conviction.

Patients have been subjected to mistreatment during pelvic examinations in the past, such as health care practitioners inseminating their own sperm into patients without their knowledge or permission.

Under the bill, a new term coined “reproductive battery” is used to describe such a circumstance, and any health care practitioner caught performing such an act will be convicted of a third-degree felony. If the health care practitioner is also the donor of the reproductive material, the said practitioner will be convicted of a second-degree felony.

First filed in October 2019 by Sen. Lauren Book, D-Broward, SB 698 was reviewed and amended several times in the Florida Legislature before making its way to the governor.

Book said in a public tweet that her journey of using in vitro fertilization to become a mother is one of the reasons why the bill is so important to her.

In a prepared statement after the bill passed, Book emphasized that even in the best cases, unapproved pelvic exams were inappropriate learning experiences for medical students. The worst cases resulted in the same violation as sexual assault.

The Senate Judiciary, Criminal Justice and Rules committees all examined the bill before sending it to the House for input and approval. All three committees voted on the bill, and all committee members voted unanimously in favor of it.

Once the committees approved the bill, Book took the bill to the floor where senators once again voted unanimously in favor of it.

SB 698 reached the House in March where it received further scrutiny and amendments. The bill was passed in the House and voted on once more in the Senate. The bill was eventually sent to the governor in June.

SB 698 officially came into effect Wednesday, July 1.

“The signing of this bill into law is a victory in the fight for women to have control over their own bodies,” Book stated. “Women seeking fertility treatment in Florida will now be protected from a group of predatory physicians who commit selfish narcissistic acts.”

Featured image: An examination room inside University Medical Center New Orleans. (Unmodified photo by Infrogmation of New Orleans used under a Creative Commons license.

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