Executive orders have been issued to protect medical workers during the pandemic. However, some experts worry that this protection could increase the risk for negligence by medical providers.
The executive order prevents patients from suing workers during the pandemic for medical care if something goes wrong. The idea behind these orders is to protect the medical professionals who are on the frontlines and caring for patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Protecting Medical Personnel
There is much unknown about this virus, making it difficult to determine the best treatment protocols. To allow the medical teams the freedom and ability to recommend treatments and care to patients, governors are issuing executive orders that prevent lawsuits if a patient doesn’t recover from the illness. New information is constantly being provided which can alter the course of treatment for patients with the disease. While physicians try to stay on top of new data and information, they would normally be held liable for incorrect diagnoses or treatments. With the coronavirus, it is a unique situation that must be treated as such. However, it doesn’t allay fears about what else could go wrong during this time.
Concern from lawyers and patients alike go beyond COVID-19 to other medical diagnoses. Many see it as a blanket protection which could allow more negligence by doctors, hospitals and other medical staff. Some attorneys are refusing to take on medical malpractice cases if the event occurred during COVID-19. Depending on the wording of the executive orders, it can be specific to the virus or interpreted to provide blanket protection for all medical care during this time.
Now that many states are allowing clinics and doctor’s offices to reopen or to perform elective procedures, the concerns for negligence increase. Patients may feel there is little recourse if something goes wrong in a treatment or surgical procedure during this time.
To prove medical malpractice, you must be able to provide evidence of negligence. Many attorneys feel there is little danger to the medical professionals of malpractice lawsuits for the coronavirus even without the added protection. The negligence must also lead to damage to the patient.
Since there are no standard protocols for COVID-19, it would be extremely difficult to prove negligence on the part of a hospital or other medical staff. However, the executive order could prevent medical professionals from being held accountable when they are negligent in other areas.
One of the top areas for concern is with nursing homes. These orders protect facilities for the care of the elderly from being sued for negligence from COVID-19, but it could also prevent detection and accountability for other lapses in care. Poor care and negligence is already an issue in nursing homes, but added protection from executive orders could make the situation even worse. Since most facilities don’t allow visitors at this time, the problem could be compounded as there is less chance of reporting negligence by family members and friends.