Miami Herald by Carol Marbin Miller and Daniel Chang
April 8, 2021
A birth gone horribly wrong left Jasmine Acebo with profound brain damage and a bleak future, one defined by wheelchairs, mechanical airways, feeding tubes, frequent hospitalizations, in-home nursing, and constant pain.
Unable to work, her overwhelmed mother became dependent on food stamps and sometimes cash assistance. She watched helplessly when her newborn convulsed with seizures. She saw her daughter turn blue and nearly suffocate during a feeding.
A Florida program promised help: medical care, money for expenses — a lifeline of support.
But that help, said Yamile “Jamie” Acebo, was often delayed, denied, or deficient. And it included what she viewed as a shameful suggestion from a program administrator making a home visit: Would Acebo wish to place her daughter in an institution? The thought of Jasmine, surrounded by strangers and not the mother who loved her, was horrifying.
“I will care for her until the day the good Lord takes her home,” said Acebo, a single mother living with her parents when Jasmine, her first child, was born.
In every other state but one, Jamie Acebo and hundreds of other parents like her could have pursued multimillion-dollar lawsuits to recoup the costs of raising a catastrophically disabled child. But a Florida law enacted in 1988 — to reverse what advocates and lawmakers called an exodus of obstetricians fleeing high malpractice insurance premiums — stripped them of that right.
Florida’s Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association, also called NICA, aims to lower obstetricians’ malpractice costs while providing families of those who suffer the most severe birth injuries with monetary compensation and “medically necessary” health care. It prevents parents from suing, even if the doctor or hospital may have made an egregious mistake.