The Ohio House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly in favor of House Bill 606, known as the “Good Samaritan Expansion Bill.” The bill grants temporary immunity from civil liability and professional disciplinary actions to a wide range of health care providers for injury, death, or damages arising from health care services rendered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The immunity will also protect health care facilities, such as hospitals and other settings where health care services are provided. If enacted into law, the immunity provisions will retroactively be made effective as of March 9, 2020, the date of Governor Mike DeWine’s order declaring a state of emergency in Ohio due to the threat of COVID-19, and will extend to December 31, 2020.
The immunity is limited insofar as it does not apply to actions that constitute reckless disregard, willful misconduct, or gross negligence, nor will it immunize health care providers practicing outside the scope of their skills, education, and training unless such actions are undertaken in good faith and in response to a lack of resources caused by the COVID-19 emergency. The bill defines “reckless disregard” as “conduct by which, with heedless indifference to the consequences, the health care provider disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the health care provider’s conduct is likely to cause, at the time health care or emergency services were rendered, an unreasonable risk of injury, death, or loss to person or property.” Despite these limitations, the bill affords expansive protection to providers and facilities acting in good faith to treat patients in response to this pandemic.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, health care providers and facilities have suffered from a lack of scientific data and a constantly changing landscape of guidance from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In passing this bill, the Ohio House of Representatives has acknowledged the precarious nature of providing health care services in the midst of a pandemic and the risks inherent in making health care decisions based on sparse information. Granting immunity to health care providers and facilities will provide much-needed stability by better enabling such providers and facilities to take action to treat patients and address the pandemic.
The Good Samaritan Expansion Bill was introduced in the Ohio Senate on June 2, 2020. On June 3, 2020, the Ohio Senate passed a similar bill, Senate Bill 308, which would also provide immunity to health care providers from civil liability and professional disciplinary actions. It is unclear at this time how the two bills will be reconciled or what protections the final legislation will contain for health care providers. We will continue to provide updates on this legislation. Please contact your Dinsmore health care attorney with any questions regarding this bill.