For Healthcare Workers, the Drive is to be Immune to Civil Suites By Ian Wilson LL. B

     If this legal virus spreads here, it will be a problem, not able to be dealt with by lockdowns:

“Pennsylvania’s “health care heroes” got a different kind of armor in their fight on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday, as Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order granting them broad civil immunity against malpractice actions stemming from care provided to COVID-19 patients. The immunity covers doctors, nurses, hospital technicians, nursing home employees, as well as people like practitioners permitted to exceeded their licensed scope of practice to help, recent retirees who came back to offer their services in the most thinly-stretched areas and National Guard medical corpsmen and women pressed into service at beleaguered nursing homes. It does not, however, cover willful misconduct or acts of gross negligence, acts arising from non-COVID-19 medical treatment, or apply to the actual owners of the hospitals or nursing homes that employ these health care workers. A source familiar with discussions leading to the order said that, as written, it could protect a doctor, for example, in an overtaxed hospital who, in a good-faith attempt to save lives, tried to treat two patients off the same ventilator. That would be an example, of good faith practice in a situation where there was no well-established standard of care that the governor wants doctors to have the latitude to pursue. It is not intended, however, to provide some kind of new protection to operators of a facility that have already compiled a long record of operational violations that were only magnified by the pandemic. Business leaders within and outside of the health care field - fearful of a coming avalanche of coronavirus-related lawsuits - almost immediately criticized the protections offered as far too limited.”

     Now I have not heard of any movement to replicate this immunity yet here in Australia, but rest assured that in our globalised world, viruses are not the only things rapidly transmitted. Limiting civil liability is always a bad idea, because civil suites stand to deliver justice to people who suffer harm, and medical negligence and malpractice is widespread across all Western jurisdictions. Contrary to what the above article says, removing legal protections, which evolved for very good reason, will likely have the dire consequences denied, namely to protect various forms of misconduct, that may fall short of the standard mentioned, but still have been protected by means of the legal action. This has always stood as sword of Damocles to keep the medical profession in line.

     In the debate between doctors and lawyers, I am firmly on the side of lawyers. Trust me; lawyers are your friend, and if you are in legal trouble, these are the people you need.



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Wednesday, 12 June 2024

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