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Advocates are hopeful Gov. DeSantis will expand liability protection to medical providers

By Juliette Fairley | Apr 10, 2020

William Large

William Large

MIAMI - COVID-19 advocates are hopeful that Gov. Ron DeSantis will expand liability protections for health care professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak after receiving a letter signed by a coalition of healthcare providers and facilities outlining the dangers.

“Most hospital intensive care units have specialists and pulmonologists responding to COVID-19 infections but there are so many cases that we need other specialists responding in the ICU,” said William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute (FJRI). “These providers deserve to be protected from any potential lawsuits.”

The coalition, which includes the presidents of the Florida Medical Association (FMA) and the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association as well as FJRI, has not yet received an official response to their letter from the governor’s office.

According to Florida’s Department of Health, there have been a total of 16,826 reported COVID-19 cases and 371 deaths statewide.

“We have been asking for new innovative techniques, which we hope will have positive outcomes but if there are any negative outcomes and they lead to lawsuits, healthcare providers need protections,”  Large told the Florida Record.

However, trial attorney Daniel Uhlfelder said healthcare providers, such as physicians, have an obligation to their oath.

“I hope they continue to recognize it,” Uhlfelder said. “Most practicing healthcare providers already carry some kind of malpractice insurance. They need to do what they can to save lives because making changes to their situation in the middle of a pandemic is hard to do.”

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Florida Record.

“This virus is unprecedented,” Uhlfelder said. “The last thing we need is for doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers to stop working out of fear that they will be sued.”

As previously reported, the letter recommends that the sovereign immunity that public officials, such as Gov. DeSantis and President Trump, enjoy could be extended to health care workers by deeming them agents of the Department of Health. But such immunity would require an executive order from Gov. DeSantis.

“We hope he will address it this week,” Large said. “It's critical it happens in short order and that it has a longer-term impact because the statute of limitations for professional malpractice is two years if an incident happened at this time.”