Tallahassee, FL – State lawmakers are now one step closer to making major changes to Florida’s guardianship law. The changes come after a former Central Florida guardian was caught placing do not resuscitate orders on clients without their permission. Right now lawmakers in the Florida House of Representatives are going through the final readings of the senate version of the Guardianship bill.
A news conference is scheduled for Thursday morning at the state capitol with the bill co-authors, Rep. Colleen Burton of Lakeland and Senator Kathleen Passidomo of Naples, along with Richard Prudom, the Secretary of Elder Affairs.
The bill passed unanimously in the Florida Senate last week and is expected to go up for a House vote tomorrow. Should it pass as expected, the bill will go to Governor DeSantis’ office to be signed into law. Last summer, DeSantis ordered a statewide probe into the guardianship program after state investigators launched a criminal investigation into Rebecca Fierle and the hundreds of guardianship cases she had across the state.
The measure entered as HB 709 and SB 994, would clamp down on what guardians would be allowed to do -- and create more supervision on cases involving vulnerable and elderly patients entrusted with their care. The bills come right on the heels of a court date being set for Rebecca Fierle.
She is a former guardian based out of Orlando who just last month was arrested on two felony counts of abuse and aggravated neglect. Body camera video from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office shows the arrest at her Ocala home. Fierle is scheduled for a court hearing on arraignment in Hillsborough County to face two felony counts on March 23rd.
Fierle was under a state criminal investigation for months over how she handled the case of Stephen Stryker, a Brevard County man who died at a Tampa hospital while under her care. State investigators allege she ordered his feeding tube to be capped and a DNR order to remain in place against the recommendations of doctors, and against Stryker's wishes. She is also being investigated for how she handled her clients' finances.
As a result of this case, Senator Kathleen Passidomo of Naples and Representative Colleen Burton of Lakeland have recommended stricter guidelines and more court supervision over what state guardians can and can't do. Fierle's former attorneys contend she acted within the current guidelines set forth by Florida law and did nothing wrong when she placed DNR orders on hundreds of clients without their permission, and without notifying the court.
The attorneys representing her in her criminal case have not responded to multiple requests for comment.