ORLANDO, Fla. — Added protections for Floridians under guardianship, inspired in part by Spectrum News’s nearly yearlong investigation into Florida’s problem-plagued guardianship program, are now state law.
What You Need To Know
- Florida guardianship law will expand protection of seniors, oversight of program
- Bill was inspired by investigation into the 2019 death of Steven Stryker
- New law also expands guardianship reporting requirements, among other measures
- RELATED: Senior Care in Question: The Rebecca Fierle Case Explained
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed 21 bills late Thursday, including House Bill 709/Senate Bill 994, which expand protections for seniors under a guardian's care, oversight of guardians, and reporting requirements.
The bills, sponsored by state Rep. Colleen Burton of Polk County and State Senate Majority Leader Kathleen Passidomo of Lee County would:
- Require courts to grant permission for guardians to sign “do not resuscitate orders”
- Make it mandatory that guardians report details information regarding payments
- Restricts guardians from being able to petition the court to be appointed to cases unless they are related to the person in care.
The new law also expands guardianship reporting requirements, among other measures.
The bills were inspired in part by Spectrum News’s extensive reporting on the 2019 death of Steven Stryker which subsequently led to the arrest of his court-appointed guardian, Rebecca Fierle.
Fierle is awaiting trial on a pair of felony charges in Hillsborough County related to Stryker’s death. She, and others, also remain the focus of multiple investigations.
Agents obtained felony charges against Fierle stemming from the May 2019 death of 74-year-old Steven Stryker, over whom Fierle had obtained court-appointed guardianship.
Investigators say Fierle quickly filed a "do not resuscitate" order against the wishes of Stryker and his family members and ordered his feeding tube capped against the advice of doctors.
Those actions, state agents argue, directly led to Stryker's death.
"Seven (7) days after being appointed Steven Stryker’s guardian, Fierle executed a Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR) for Steven Stryker without judicial review," the arrest report states. "The investigation revealed that Steven Stryker did not have a terminal illness and did not want a DNR in place. On May 13, 2019, while at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa within Hillsborough County, Florida, Steven Stryker died. Because of the DNR established by Fierle, no life-saving measures were taken by the medical personnel to preserve Stryker’s life."
Stryker’s family long accused Fierle and AdventHealth of improperly petitioning the court for guardianship in the first place.
Spectrum News obtained audio recordings of the hearing, revealing attorneys and the judge at times laughed and joked with each other over Stryker’s case. The audio also revealed the hearing itself, ending with Fierle obtaining full guardianship and control over Stryker, lasted less than three minutes.
In November 2019, AdventHealth announced it would stop paying professional guardians for services and would place new guardianship procedures in place. The changes were in response to an Orange County Comptroller’s investigation which found AdventHealth paid Fierle nearly $4 million over a decade.
In addition to Senate Bill 994, Governor Ron DeSantis also signed the following bills on June 18:
- CS/SB 226 – Athletic Trainers
- CS/SB 426 – Economic Development
- CS/CS/SB 698 – Reproductive Health
- CS/SB 838 – Business Organizations
- SB 886 – Errors in Deeds
- CS/SB 966 – Public Records
- CS/CS/SB 994 – Guardianship
- CS/SB 1050 – Disaster Volunteer Leave for State Employees
- CS/SB 1082 – Domestic Violence Injunctions
- CS/CS/SB 1120 – Substance Abuse Services
- CS/SB 7012 – Substance Abuse and Mental Health
- CS/HB 89 – Adoption Records
- HB 163 – Homelessness
- CS/HB 835 – Alzheimer’s Disease
- CS/HB 1373 – Long-term Care
- CS/HB 1461 – Health Access Dental Licenses
- HB 7013 – A Review Under the Open Government Sunset Review Act
- CS/HB 103 – Subpoenas
- CS/HB 73 – Environmental Regulation
- HB 7001 – A Review Under the Open Government Sunset Review Act
- CS/HB 43 – Child Welfare