Fontline Health Care Workers Seek Immunity from Malpractice During COVID-19
The Pennsylvania Medical Society is asking Governor Tom Wolf to grant health care workers temporary immunity from malpractice claims during the coronavirus pandemic.
Health Care Workers Request Liability
Last week, the Pennsylvania Medical Society sent a letter to Governor Wolf asking him to sign “an executive order granting medical liability immunity for care rendered during the time period of the COVID-19 emergency declaration.”
According to Pennsylvania Medical Society President Lawrence John, health care workers should not have to worry about malpractice suits while trying to save people’s lives during the coronavirus outbreak.
Wolf spokesperson Lyndsay Kensinger said the administration is “reviewing options to address this issue.”
The Request Causes Controversy
According to WHYY, some Philadelphia malpractice lawyers are skeptical that liability immunity is justified. Eric Weitz, a Philadelphia personal injury attorney and Vice Chair of the Medical Malpractice section of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice says he has not seen many lawyers or patients filing claims as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although he supports limited malpractice immunity for frontline health care workers, he is concerned that the Pennsylvania Medical Society could be using this crisis to ultimately enact broader tort reform.
Chip Becker, a personal injury attorney, has also voiced his concerns. He is worried that broader immunity protection would ultimately hurt patients by protecting institutions from lawsuits meant to address poor treatments.
However, Doctor Curtis Miyamoto, Chair of Radiation Oncology at Temple Health in Philadelphia, supports the request. He believes that malpractice concerns might withhold medical workers from performing necessary obligations. He says that legal protection would allow them to focus completely on what matters most—beating back the outbreak.
Other Orders of Limited Liability
The governors of New York and Illinois have already issued executive orders limiting health care workers’ liability during the outbreak. New Jersey also passed a similar protection bill on Monday.
Nationally, the CARES Act stimulus package, passed by Congress in March, provides some liability protection to medical professionals who volunteer their time to help fight the pandemic.
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