Could You Be Liable for Volunteer COVID-19 Care?
By David Doolittle

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As you have during past public health emergencies, many Texas physicians have stepped up to care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This includes retired physicians and others who have volunteered their services in areas where they are needed most.

If you’d like to volunteer but are concerned about your potential liability, the Texas Medical Association has created a white paper that reviews several state statutes that could offer protection should you face a lawsuit.

Topics the white paper covers include:

  • Limited civil liability for certain volunteers – including those acting at the request of a charitable organization or a local, state, or federal agency – that give care, assistance, or advice in response to a man-made or natural disaster;
  • Civil liability protection for a person providing volunteer emergency care administered in good faith; and
  • Limited civil liability for a volunteer, including a volunteer physician or health care provider, of a charitable organization for death, damage, or injury to a patient.

Note that the protections would not prevent you from being sued, but they may be used as affirmative defenses in court.

The American Medical Association has published information about federal liability protections for health care professionals during the pandemic. 

TMA also has been pushing for expanded liability protections for all physicians, regardless of compensation status, during the pandemic.

In a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott in early April, TMA and several other organizations requested temporary liability protections for physicians and other health care workers in the trenches of the pandemic while the state’s disaster declaration is in effect.

On May 12, the governor requested nationwide federal liability relief, and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) also has asked for federal action. TMA will continue to monitor this situation and advocate for protections for Texas physicians. As of late May, the governor has not issued an executive order, and no federal legislation has been passed.

Find the latest news, resources, and government guidance on the coronavirus outbreak by visiting TMA’s COVID-19 Resource Center regularly.

Last Updated On

May 29, 2020

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David Doolittle

Editor

(512) 370-1385

Dave Doolittle is editor of Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. Dave grew up in Austin, where he attended culinary school as well as the University of Texas. He spent years covering Central Texas for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. He is the father of two girls, a proud Longhorn, and an avid motorsports fan.

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