Physicians in Florida may decline to perform certain procedures if they violate their personal beliefs under a bill signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 11. The measure is one of four pieces of legislation intended to expand patient rights, support physicians’ freedom of speech, and ban research that could potentially result in the development of a pathogen such as COVID-19.
“We protected the rights of Floridians to make decisions for themselves and their children and rejected COVID theater, narratives, and hysteria in favor of truth and data,” DeSantis said during a signing event in Destin, Florida. “These expanded protections will help ensure that medical authoritarianism does not take root in Florida.”
The newly signed measures include SB 1580, which provides that physicians in practice here may choose not to participate in or take payment for certain healthcare services on the basis of their own conscience-based objections. It also allows physicians to prescribe alternative treatments after they have collaborated with patients who seek them.
SB 252 is a measure that forbids businesses and government entities from requiring that people show proof of vaccination or infection recovery from any disease in order to access services or enter a venue. It also forbids employers to discharge or demote employees because of their COVID-19 vaccination status.
SB 238 provides an exemption from public records regulations connected to complaints or investigations based on someone’s health care choices.
Finally, HB 1387 bans so-called “gain of function” research which is also known as enhanced potential pandemic pathogen research. Gain of function research is generally intended to predict pandemic-connected diseases and to develop vaccines and other therapies.
According to DeSantis’ office, Florida is the first state to ban such research on the grounds that it is unsafe and unregulated.
SB 252 and SB 238 go into effect on June 1.
SB 1580 and HB 1387 become effective on July 1.