Little Rock, AR (Law Firm Newswire) October 21, 2014 - This question needs to be asked in today’s world because millions of Americans are still unable to access health care.
“What do people without even the basic necessities do for medical and dental care?” asked Michael Smith, a personal injury lawyer in Arkansas. “Most simply go without. In some states, such as Florida, retired dentists and doctors volunteer their time to help people who could not otherwise access care. But in other states, volunteerism rarely happens. The differences are directly linked to protection from medical malpractice lawsuits. Florida offers that kind of protection. Should other states, like Arkansas, also provide it?”
Some practitioners are covered for any medical malpractice under the auspices of their professional liability insurance. State clinics are usually responsible for any alleged negligence of their medical staff.
Florida is a leader on this issue. The state passed its Access to Health Care Act more than two decades ago, which offers state-sponsored sovereign immunity to volunteer medical professionals. If a lawsuit is filed involving medically negligent care provided by a volunteer (as the patient still has a right to sue), the state is 100 percent liable for damages or injuries.
In Connecticut, pro bono care is available from non-retired medical professionals. If any problems arise, doctors who work for the state cannot be sued, but the state may be.
The difference between Florida and Connecticut is that retired medical professionals do not always continue to pay for liability insurance, as they are not actively involved in seeing patients on a daily basis. Their retirement does not take away from the wealth of knowledge they still have at their fingertips, making them valuable and untapped resources.
“Without some form of protection in other states, whether in Arkansas or New Mexico, many retired medical professionals will not volunteer their services for fear of being sued. Their huge pool of untapped expertise could be used to help those desperately needing such services,” added Smith. “Were Arkansas to pass an act similar to Florida’s Access to Health Care Act, those needing these services would be in a better place.”
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