MPLA: Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act Would Offer Protections for Medical Volunteers and Preserve Patient Access to Care

October 7, 2021 by matray

Editor’s Note: The Medical Professional Liability Association (MPL Association) president and CEO Brian K. Atchinson issued the following statement about the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act of 2021 (S. 2941/H.R. 5239) that was introduced by Senators Bill Cassidy, MD, and Angus King as well as Representatives Raul Ruiz, MD, and Larry Bucshon, MD:

“Over the past year and a half, healthcare professionals around the nation have shown their selfless dedication to provide care for an overwhelming wave of COVID-19 patients. During the pandemic and in the wake of recent natural disasters, physicians, nurses, and others have stepped in to volunteer their medical services, sometimes crossing state lines to offer access to quality, timely medical care. The current patchwork of state laws designed to protect medical volunteers from unwarranted medical liability lawsuits are ambiguous and inconsistent, especially when applied to large-scale disasters. Unfortunately, current federal law also falls short in providing our frontline workers with the predictability and peace of mind that they need when responding to calamities. Consequently, vital medical volunteers are deterred from providing essential services at those times when their help is most needed.

The Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act of 2021 would provide civil liability protections to licensed healthcare professionals who volunteer their time and skills in times of greatest crisis. The bill also would preserve victims’ access to compensation if a volunteer’s egregious conduct results in injury.

We applaud Senator Cassidy, Senator King, Representative Ruiz, and Representative Bucshon for introducing this measure. The MPL Association looks forward to working with its allies on Capitol Hill and the medical community to build bipartisan support in Congress and advocate for the enactment of this critical piece of legislation.”

More information on the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act of 2021 is available here.

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Sens. Cassidy, King Reintroduce Bill to Protect Disaster Relief Health Professional Volunteers

October 7, 2021 by matray

U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, MD, and Angus King reintroduced the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act to provide medical professionals with a limited, but consistent, level of legal protection while volunteering during federally-declared disasters. Senators Lisa Murkowski, Marsha Blackburn, Roger Wicker, John Boozman, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Jeanne Shaheen and Joe Manchin co-sponsored the bill.

The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 sought to protect those volunteering through non-profit agencies or government entities from litigation over possible economic damages they may cause while volunteering. However, this act fails to protect persons who volunteer independently of a formally recognized organization, or that cross state lines to volunteer. The combination of federal and state efforts to protect and encourage volunteering, specifically by health care professionals, can be unclear and insufficient in the event of a large-scale disaster. This bill only applies to licensed medical providers and will not protect against litigation if the damage was done in a deliberate or criminal manner.

“After disasters like Hurricane Katrina, Laura and Ida, recovery depends on the volunteers and medical professionals who selflessly come to Louisiana to help those in need,” said Sen. Cassidy. “The least we can do in return is provide needed legal protections while they aid disaster victims.” “Amidst the chaos and sorrow of the last 18 months, the selflessness and caring of the American people has been on full display,” said Sen. King. “Time and time again, Americans have volunteered to help their fellow citizens in the face of a deadly pandemic and a series of natural disasters – especially our healthcare professionals, who have put their skills and training to use to save lives. These Good Samaritans can make all the difference in times of crisis, and should be celebrated and encouraged – not punished. Our legislation will permanently ensure that volunteers working to confront emergencies will have reasonable legal protections, allowing them to carry out their work and help Americans in need.”

“When disaster strikes, volunteers regularly step into action to help those in need. In Alaska, disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis can strike at any time – reminding us of the importance of help from volunteers, especially health professionals. Obstacles like a lack of civil liability protections are the last thing providers volunteering to respond need to worry about,” said Sen. Murkowski. “This bill protects physicians who step into action and help those in need during times of disaster.”

“Tennesseans are no stranger to natural disasters, but the quick recovery of the Volunteer State is the result of servant-hearted leaders supporting their neighbors in need,” said Sen. Blackburn. “This legislation is critical to protecting our volunteer community in Tennessee and across the nation.”

“Mississippians have a long history of standing with their fellow citizens in times of crisis,” said Sen. Wicker. “This bill would extend legal protections to health care professionals who volunteer and help our nation be more resilient in the face of natural disasters.”

“Stepping up during a crisis to provide medical care to Americans in need is a high calling. It should not open up selfless volunteers to legal jeopardy,” said Sen. Boozman. “Ensuring they have a basic level of liability protection is just common sense, and I’m proud to stand with my colleagues to empower these men and women to keep using their skills and training for good in times of disaster.”

“Mississippi is no stranger to disasters or to the blessings of people who bravely volunteer to begin the rescue and recovery process. At the same time, we are also willing and ready to volunteer in other states where needed,” said Sen. Hyde-Smith. “This legislation would serve to encourage more health professionals to volunteer by ensuring proper legal protections are in place for them.”

“Communities impacted by disasters rely on volunteer medical professionals to care for those in need. As West Virginians, we know this all too well after experiencing major flooding over the past decade that required volunteers to help administer vital care near disaster sites. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan bill to protect the medical volunteers who work to help our communities recover,” said Sen. Manchin.

“The Health Coalition on Liability and Access applauds Senators Cassidy and King for introducing the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Protection Act. Thanks to their earlier efforts, Congress wisely saw fit to prevent unwarranted liability lawsuits from being filed against volunteers treating victims of the coronavirus pandemic. It is now time for Congress to ensure similar protections for volunteer health professionals who will sacrifice their time and talents to aid those affected by future federal disasters and public health emergencies. The time to act is now, before the next calamity strikes,” said Mike Stinson, chair of the Health Coalition on Liability and Access (HCLA).

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