Legislation provides legal protection to individual medical professionals who volunteer during federally declared disasters.

Senators Wicker and Hyde-Smith cosponsored the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act. This legislation amends a 24-year-old law by broadening protections for persons who volunteer independently of a formally recognized organization, or who cross state lines to volunteer.

“Mississippi is no stranger to disasters or to the blessings of people who bravely volunteer to begin the rescue and recovery process.  At the same time, we are also willing and ready to volunteer in other states where needed,” Senator Hyde-Smith said. “This legislation would serve to encourage more health professionals to volunteer by ensuring proper legal protections are in place for them.”

The bill would only apply to licensed medical providers and serves to clarify federal and state efforts to protect and encourage volunteering, specifically by health care professionals, in disaster situations.

The bill defines the term ‘volunteer’ as a health care professional who, with respect to the health care services rendered, does not receive compensation and excludes reasonable reimbursement or allowance for expenses actually incurred, receipt of paid leave, and receipt of items to be used for rendering the health services in the health care professional’s capacity as a volunteer.

The Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act protects health care professionals from liability under federal or state law for harm caused by an act or omission while the professional is serving as a volunteer in response to a federally declared disaster. However, this protection from liability does not apply if harm was caused by an act such as criminal misconduct, gross negligence, and reckless misconduct. This protection doesn’t apply if the health care professional provided services under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act would take effect 90 days after the date of its’ enactment.

“Mississippians have a long history of standing with their fellow citizens in times of crisis,” said Senator Wicker. “This bill would extend legal protections to health care professionals who volunteer and help our nation be more resilient in the face of natural disasters.”

U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) and Angus King (I-Maine) authored the measure, with Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) as additional cosponsors.

On Sept. 10, Reps. Raul Ruiz, MD, (D-Calif.) and Larry Bucshon, MD, (R-Ind.) introduced the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act (H.R. 5239) in the House. The AANS and the CNS sent a letter of support to Reps. Ruiz and Bucshon.