At present, hospitals, boards, and politicians have begged physicians to perform at great personal risk for Covid-19 exposure and death and make decisions far outside their training.  The old phrase of no good deed goes unpunished seems absolutely appropriate to characterize the sentiment among many in healthcare.  The California Medical Association (CMA) along with dozens of other organizations drafted a letter to Congress to ask them to pass legislation to protect physicians from unfair lawsuits during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Certainly, doctors have been putting themselves at risk every day while facing shortages of medical supplies and personal safety equipment.  Doctors have been forced to make life and death medical decisions based upon changing perspectives in medicine about a virus that has been a bit of a mystery.   These physicians will now have the threats of years of lawsuits from decisions made during an unspeakable time of difficulty for this country and its populace as well.

Doctors have been assigned to provide care outside the physician’s general practice area.  Doctors have had to ration care due to shortages of equipment such as ventilators.  They have had to make split second judgments without adequate testing.  Physicians have had to send patients home who have not appeared sick enough only to have those patients die in the future.  This whole coronavirus effort has been an effort in triage, much like a battlefield scenario.

In these and other scenarios, physicians face the threat of costly and emotionally draining medical liability lawsuits due to circumstances that are beyond their control. These lawsuits may come months or even years after the current ordeal is over.

In the midst of this crisis, it only seems prudent and fair that Congress pass protections for physicians if we expect physicians to treat us all when the reaper comes calling.

Dr. Kenneth Hughes in Los Angeles continues virtual consultations during the coronavirus pandemic.

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