Tallahassee, FL – Florida lawmakers unanimously passed a bill Wednesday designed to protect people under the care of Florida’s guardianship program sending the legislation to Gov. Ron DeSantis to become law.
The vote comes after a former Central Florida guardian was caught placing do not resuscitate orders on clients without their permission.
This week, Florida lawmakers went through the final readings of the State Senate version of the Guardianship bill before the final vote. The bill passed unanimously in the Florida Senate last week and went to House vote Wednesday.
A news conference is scheduled for Thursday morning at the state capitol with the bill co-authors, Rep. Colleen Burton, of Lakeland and Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, of Naples, along with Richard Prudom, the secretary of Elder Affairs.
The bill will now go to 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 former Orlando-based guardian 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 Fierle.
Fierle is a former guardian who was arrested in February on two felony counts of abuse and aggravated neglect. Fierle is scheduled for a court hearing on arraignment in Hillsborough County to face two felony counts on March 23.
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, Passidomo and Burton 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.