Cremated Remains In Office Of Embattled Florida Guardian
Investigators found the cremated remains of nine individuals in the office of a former professional guardian accused of filing "do not resuscitate" orders on behalf of clients without their permission, the press secretary for Florida's attorney general said Wednesday.
Kylie Mason said the cremains were found after law enforcement executed a search warrant of Rebecca Fierle's office in Orlando on Monday.
Investigators were trying to identify the cremains, determine causes of death and figure out how long they were in Fierle's office, Mason said in an email.
Mason said she couldn't comment further "as this is a very active criminal investigation."
Fierle's attorney, Harry Hackney, didn't respond to email and voicemail inquiries.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement opened a criminal investigation after a 75-year-old man died when a Tampa hospital was barred from attempting to save his life because Fierle had filed a "do not resuscitate" order. Investigators said Fierle's actions went against the wishes of the ward's family.
Fierle resigned last month as a professional guardian after a judge moved to remove her from guardianship cases following revelations about the "do not resuscitate" orders issued without families' permission or court approval.
State officials said Fierle had 450 guardianships in 16 Florida counties.
The controversy prompted Florida Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom last month to seek the resignation of the director Office of Public and Private Guardians, Carol Berkowitz.
Gov. Ron Desantis also called for a vigorous investigation into the state's guardianship program.
Meanwhile, in Washington, a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday filed legislation aimed at bringing transparency to the guardianship system. The Guardian Accountability Act proposes tracking information about guardians such as background checks, publishing training materials for guardians and maintaining a public database on guardianship laws and the use of less restrictive alternatives.
"In Orlando, we saw firsthand the abuse of a former guardian which led to a preventable death," said Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, one of the sponsors. "We owe it to our seniors and to those living with disabilities to provide protections from ill-intended bad actors who abuse the system designed to provide a better quality of life."