FEDERAL | House E&C Passes Good Samaritan Act
The House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act to the full House of Representatives by voice vote in February. This bill, authored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), would shield health care practitioners from liability from harm caused while serving in a professional capacity as a volunteer in a declared disaster area. Sen. Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) has introduced identical legislation in his respective chamber.
ASPS has worked closely with the Health Coalition on Liability and Access to advance this bill during several congressional sessions and submitted testimony to the Committee urging for passage of this important legislation. In the wake of the California wildfires, as well as the hurricanes in Puerto Rico and Texas, this legislation is more relevant than ever.
The Good Samaritan Act is an extension of the Volunteer Protection Act (VPA), passed by Congress in 1997. The VPA recognized that it was in the best interest of the federal government to encourage the contributions of volunteers and offer civil liability protections to individuals for acts of ordinary negligence that were committed while volunteering for a qualified nonprofit or governmental organization. The VPA protects those offering medical services in emergencies to the extent that it encourages medical providers to join nonprofits or government entities. However, health practitioners who volunteer on their own are not protected from liability under the VPA. The Good Samaritan Act respects existing state medical liability laws, while creating a comprehensive system for medical volunteers – especially those across state lines. This bill now awaits further consideration by the full House.