WASHINGTON— US Senators Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) and Angus King (I-ME) introduced 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.
“When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, temporary hospitals were set up and medical professionals from across the US came to treat patients. We needed them, they saved lives. If another disaster occurs in Louisiana, or in any state, the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act ensures medical professionals have a certain level of legal protection—an asset when encouraging volunteers to come to a disaster area,” said Dr. Cassidy.
“In the wake of a disaster or crisis, its often doctors, nurses, and health care professionals who are among the first on the scene and who stay the longest to help people and communities heal. They’re folks who come from all across the country – putting their own lives on hold – to volunteer their time and talent to save lives. Cutting out the patchwork of government policies that inadvertently discourage their work is common-sense,” Sen. King said. “Because providing responsible and quality care should always come first, especially during a time of emergency when they’re needed the most.”
Dr. Cassidy has worked in Louisiana’s charity hospital system for nearly 30 years treating uninsured and underinsured patients. He mobilized volunteers to turn an abandoned K-Mart into a surge hospital to treat victims following Hurricane Katrina.
The Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act will provide medical professionals with a limited, but consistent level of protection from lawsuits while volunteering during federally-declared disasters.
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 healthcare professionals, can be unclear and insufficient in the face of a large-scale disaster.
This bill will only apply to licensed medical providers and will not affect any current medical liability laws present in individual states or protect against litigation if the damage was done in a deliberate or criminal manner.
A companion bill, HR 865, was introduced in the US House of Representatives by Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Congressman David Scott (D-GA).
Read the full text of the bill here.