04-10-2020 | Blogs, BW News, Health Care

UPDATE – Do Health Care Providers Have Legal Immunity When Treating COVID-19 Patients?

By: Ingrid Johnson


Image of healthcare worker holding stethoscope

 

I previously wrote a blog discussing the lack of legal immunity for health care providers treating COVID-19 patients (read here).  However, since then, Governor Kim Reynolds, in coordination with the Iowa Department of Public Health (“IDPH”), issued the Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”) Shortage Order due to PPE limitations.  This Order does include some immunity protections for health care providers.

The PPE Shortage Order points out that Iowa Code § 135.147 provides legal immunity for health care providers during a public health disaster. Specifically, § 135.147 provides immunity for persons, corporations, and other legal entities who provide medical care, in good faith, to victims of a public health disaster.  This immunity covers civil damages resulting from death, injury, or property damage.  Health care providers only qualify for this immunity if acting under the direction of the IDPH during a public health disaster. 

The PPE Shortage Order essentially activates this immunity by stating that any health care provider acting in compliance with the Order, or other guidance issued by the IDPH or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention related to PPE supply measures, is acting under the direction of the IDPH during a public health disaster and therefore will be entitled to the immunity protections of § 135.147.

Here is the full text of the PPE Shortage Order.

As of now, this immunity only covers actions related to optimizing PPE supply—not all actions relating to treating COVID-19 patients.

Additionally, § 135.147 does not extend immunity protections to acts or omissions that constitute recklessness.

The full text of Iowa Code § 135.147 is below:
  • A person, corporation, or other legal entity, or an employee or agent of such person, corporation, or entity, who, during a public health disaster, in good faith and at the request of or under the direction of the department or the department of public defense renders emergency care or assistance to a victim of the public health disaster shall not be liable for civil damages for causing the death of or injury to a person, or for damage to property, unless such acts or omissions constitute recklessness.
  • The immunities provided in this section shall not apply to any person, corporation, or other legal entity, or an employee or agent of such person, corporation, or entity, whose act or omission caused in whole or in part the public health disaster and who would otherwise be liable therefor.

If you have any questions please reach out to your BrownWinick attorney for assistance or submit a message through our Contact Us form.

COVID-19 Resource Page

For updates on COVID-19 and new guidance provided by BrownWinick attorneys, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Page.