March 30, 2017

Cassidy, King Reintroduce Bill to Protect Disaster Relief Volunteers

WASHINGTON—US Senators Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) and Angus King (I-ME) 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.


“Volunteers were crucial in helping families begin recovering after last year’s floods. Following Hurricane Katrina, medical professionals from across the US came to Louisiana to help.” said Dr. Cassidy. “The Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act provides medical professionals with legal protections that protects volunteers aiding disaster victims.”


“In the wake of a disaster or crisis, it’s 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,” Senator King said. “Because providing responsible and quality care should always come first, especially during a time of emergency when they’re needed the most.”


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 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 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.


US Representatives Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and David Scott (D-GA) reintroduced a companion bill in the US House of Representatives.


Read the full text of the bill here


Dr. Cassidy 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.