Many listeners have sent in questions about litigation in this new era of COVID-19. They are infuriated after seeing advertisements from plaintiff's attorney firms already soliciting COVID-19 cases, while physicians and other front line health care providers risk our lives and the health of our families in an unprecedented crisis --when litigation should be the last thing we have to worry about. Physicians now wonder how protected will they be if their usual practice is disrupted, and there are delays in diagnosis or treatment. Or what if we send a patient with suspected COVID-19 home when they are stable, but they later worsen or die due to the unpredictability of this horrible virus? What if we are forced to ration ventilators or other scarce resources? Or if we are asked to practice outside our usual scope -- if an OB-Gyn is now working on the medicine floors, or a general internist is now working in the ICU, and there is an adverse event in that setting?
In this episode, Dr Pensa speaks with two malpractice defense attorneys about some general principles, and gets some reassurance.
Some states are adopting emergency measures that provide practitioners with additional protection, changing the standard for civil cases to 'gross negligence or willful misconduct'. But this does not mean the provider has blanket immunity from being sued at all. Lawsuits might still be filed that will need to be defended, even with this new standard (though likely fewer cases will be brought forth, because they will be much harder for plaintiffs to prevail). Because lawsuits can still be filed, and there are large costs associated with defending them from the start, it is imperative that you are properly insured for however your practice changes in this pandemic. We discuss considerations for retirees and volunteers, physicians who are changing the manner in which they see patients, and the importance of documenting circumstances in general.