Dealing with Disasters
People are attracted to medicine as a career for myriad reasons, but for most, a key motivator is a desire to help alleviate the suffering of others.
At a time when the great suffering of the residents of northeast corridor is evident to all, many doctors are thinking about how they can help. Alas, the legal strictures of modern life force us to advise doctors to control the instinct to jump in and help before they check out a few basics.
If you’re thinking of volunteering out of state, consider the following: doctors are generally required to have a license to practice in the state where they want to help. In some situations in recent years, state regulators have suspended the local licensure requirement as an incentive for out-of-state medical professionals to assist. If the requirement is not suspended, however, the general rule applies: doctors need a license to practice medicine in the state where they are practicing, even if it’s just for a short time or completely pro bono.
Second, doctors should check with their professional liability insurance carriers. Most policies limit coverage to those states where the doctor is actively licensed to practice, no matter how noble his or her motivation.
Lastly, doctors have to be careful not to rely on “Good Samaritan” (GS) laws to provide immunity from liability in situations where they volunteer their services. The protection afforded by GS laws is narrowly circumscribed and each state’s law is different. There are also many variations in the “duty to report” laws among the states.
Our thoughts and well wishes go out to everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy. If you have questions related to your coverage and your practice and you’re insured with the Psychiatrists’ Program, please contact us by email or call 1-800-245-3333.