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U.S. Doctors Lobbying to Prevent Malpractice Suits During Covid-19 Outbreak

By Jack H. FarnbauchApril 29, 2020

U.S. medical professionals on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic are lobbying policy makers for protection from potential malpractice lawsuits as hospitals triage care and physicians take on roles outside their specialties.

State chapters of the powerful American Medical Association and other groups representing healthcare providers have been pressing governors for legal cover for decisions made in crisis-stricken emergency rooms.

Governors in New York, New Jersey and Michigan have responded with orders that raised the standard for injuries or deaths while working in support of the state’s response to COVID-19 from negligence to gross negligence, or an egregious deviation from standard care. Physicians, who have long blamed malpractice lawsuits for driving up healthcare costs, hope other states will follow.

Doctors and nurses said they are worried about the lack of equipment and obligations to resuscitate patients without the ventilators needed to do it. In an example of how healthcare professionals could be exposed to malpractice lawsuits, several doctors said the increasing demand for hospital beds meant they weren’t able to be as cautious as they normally might be with non-coronavirus patients.

Doctors routinely order extensive testing and overnight observation for patients with mild heart conditions or strokes, even if their symptoms have disappeared once they get to the hospital, for example. Now, they are sending these individuals home to make room for COVID-19 patients.

 

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