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May 07, 2019

King, Cassidy Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Protect “Good Samaritans” in Disaster Responses

Legislation Aims to Provide Medical Volunteers with Legal Safeguards

WASHINGTON, D.C. —U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) today reintroduced the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act to provide medical professionals with a consistent level of legal protection while volunteering during federally-declared disasters. Under current law, the combination of federal and state efforts to protect and encourage volunteering, specifically by health care professionals, can be unclear and insufficient in the face of natural disasters.

“When the worst circumstances strike our neighbors, we see the best of America as volunteers come from every corner of the country to lend a hand to those in need,” said Senator King. “In the face of wildfires and floods, in the aftermath of tornadoes and hurricanes, these volunteers work around the clock to save lives and rebuild communities. Among these Good Samaritans are medical professionals who use their expertise to provide timely and much-needed care. Their service is a reflection of the American spirit that should be lifted up, not discouraged. This legislation rightly recognizes the contributions of these professionals and provides legal protections so they can focus on what matters in the moment: saving lives.”

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. 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. Senator King previously introduced this legislation in the 115th and the 114th Congress.

In addition to Senators King and Cassidy, the legislation is also supported by Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

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