United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico Ratifies the Patient Advocate's Regulation 7617

In an opinion by the Honorable Judge Francisco Besosa, the United States District Courts for the District of Puerto Rico, in the Thomas L. García Mones v. Group HIMA San Pablo, Inc., civil 11-2006 (FAB) case, the court ratified, in favor of the patient, a victim of medical malpractice, the Regulation 7617 from the Office of the Patient Advocate. This regulation prohibits that hospitals in Puerto Rico include a “forum selection” clause in the patient’s informed consent sheet. A “forum selection” clause is a text in the document, in which one part agrees that a claim can be presented in only the selected court or forum.

Regulation 7617, particularly, stipulates that “providers are strictly prohibited from requesting the following of the patients or from making the following part of the informed consent to be signed by the patients: (2) legal clauses not related to the treatment or medical condition of the patient like, but not limited to, a forum selection clauses”.

In this case, like in many others, the HIMA Hospital forced the patient, as a condition prior to being hospitalized for medical treatment, to sign an informed consent sheet that included a text, to the effects that if the patient were to request compensation for physical, emotional and economic damages, the patient was specifically agreeing to submit the case to the jurisdiction of the Puerto Rico’s state courts. The effect of the patient’s signature in this document was to impede his right of presenting his claim in the United States District Courts for the District of Puerto Rico, even if it had jurisdiction.

Honorable Judge Besosa correctly reasoned that the prohibition to hospitals, established in the Regulation 7617, was a “public policy” in Puerto Rico, therefore, of great importance for the general public. That is why, this important decision establishes a precedent in the Federal Court of Puerto Rico, that impedes hospitals form obligating its patients to signed said clauses, even when some patients do not know what they are signing and the hospital does not even explains it to them.

Secretary of Health Extends “Immunity” to the Oncological Hospital

According to the news published by “El Nuevo Día” on October 15, 2012, the Secreatry of Health, Dr. Lorenzo González, promised to begin a process where the “State’s immunity” would be extended to the Oncological Hospital Andrés Grillasca in medical malpractice cases.

Sais compromise was made during an activity where he assured that in one week, the hospital would receive $2.5 million dollars that the legislature assigned it many months ago.

Even when the Secretary denied that said announcement, without giving the hospital the money was a political act, the reader knows more than that. In our opinion, the Secretary’s promise of extending the State’s immunity to the Oncological Hospital, added to the awarded immunity given to the multiple of private health care institutions by the 8131 Regulation, behind the citizens back, is another illegal, unconstitutional and censurable act, beneficial to the owners of hospitals and against all of Puerto Rico’s patients, not just the medical malpractice victims.

Given that, awarding said immunity to these hospitals and doctors, will have as an effect the rendering of mediocre medical attention, since the motivation or necessity of providing an excellent service will no longer exist.