Mass. Gov. Sponsors COVID-19 Medical Worker Immunity Bill

By Y. Peter Kang
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Law360 (April 9, 2020, 7:28 PM EDT) -- Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has introduced a bill that would grant broad legal immunity for the state's doctors, nurses and hospitals as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Baker said Wednesday that the proposed legislation would protect health care professionals, including physicians, nurses and emergency medical technicians, from civil liability "when the care that they provide is impacted by the COVID-19 emergency." The bill also provides liability protection for certain health care facilities such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities and community health centers.

"We need to make sure that fear of getting sued doesn't prevent them from being able to do what they need to do to treat as many people as possible," Baker said at a press conference Wednesday.

The governor said the action was warranted because an emergency directive he simultaneously issued under the Federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act only covers testing, diagnosis and medication administration for coronavirus patients.

In addition, the bill, which was formally introduced in the state Senate on Thursday as S.2630, would also provide civil immunity for health care professionals working at "field hospitals" set up at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and elsewhere. It does not protect health care providers in cases involving gross negligence or recklessness, according to the bill's text.

"We speak with leaders and doctors from Massachusetts hospitals and health care organizations just about every morning and they are stepping up in a big way during this crisis," said Baker. "This bill will make sure that they are free to do their jobs the best they can in this unprecedented situation."

The proposed legislation comes on the heels of a similar law recently passed in New York that immunizes health care professionals impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The governors of New Jersey, Michigan and Connecticut have also issued executive orders granting somewhat similar legal protections for health care providers. On Thursday, New Jersey lawmakers floated a bill, S.2333, that would codify those protections.

On March 30, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., introduced a bill in Congress that would shield health care providers providing treatment outside of their specialties to COVID-19 patients for the duration of the national health emergency.

--Editing by Alanna Weissman.

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