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October 07, 2021

Senator King Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Protect Health Professionals Volunteering During Disasters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) this week led a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act that would provide medical professionals with consistent, common-sense legal protections while volunteering during federally-declared disasters. Under current law, the combination of federal and state policies to protect the valiant efforts of volunteers, specifically by health care professionals, can be unclear and insufficient in the face of natural or public health disasters.

“Amidst the chaos and sorrow of the last 18 months, the selflessness and caring of the American people has been on full display,” said Senator King. “Time and time again, Americans have volunteered to help their fellow citizens in the face of a deadly pandemic and a series of natural disasters – especially our healthcare professionals, who have put their skills and training to use to save lives. These Good Samaritans can make all the difference in times of crisis, and should be celebrated and encouraged – not punished. Our legislation will permanently ensure that volunteers working to confront emergencies will have reasonable legal protections, allowing them to carry out their work and help Americans in need.”

“After disasters like Hurricane Katrina, Laura and Ida, recovery depends on the volunteers and medical professionals who selflessly come to Louisiana to help those in need,” said Dr. Cassidy. “The least we can do in return is provide needed legal protections while they aid disaster victims.” 

"The Health Coalition on Liability and Access applauds Senators Cassidy and King for introducing the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Protection Act. Thanks to their earlier efforts, Congress wisely saw fit to prevent unwarranted liability lawsuits from being filed against volunteers treating victims of the coronavirus pandemic. It is now time for Congress to ensure similar protections for volunteer health professionals who will sacrifice their time and talents to aid those affected by future federal disasters and public health emergencies. The time to act is now, before the next calamity strikes," ?said Mike Stinson, ?chair of the Health Coalition on Liability and Access (HCLA). 

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.

In addition to Senators King and Cassidy, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

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