WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today cosponsored legislation to provide legal protection to individual medical professionals who volunteer during federally declared disasters.

The Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act would amend a 24-year-old law by broadening protections for persons who volunteer independently of a formally recognized organization, or who cross state lines to volunteer.

“Mississippians have a long history of standing with their fellow citizens in times of crisis,” said Wicker. “This bill would extend legal protections to health care professionals who volunteer and help our nation be more resilient in the face of natural disasters.”

“Mississippi is no stranger to disasters or to the blessings of people who bravely volunteer to begin the rescue and recovery process.  At the same time, we are also willing and ready to volunteer in other states where needed,” Hyde-Smith said.  “This legislation would serve to encourage more health professionals to volunteer by ensuring proper legal protections are in place for them.” 

The Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act would rectify a shortcoming in the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997, which protects those volunteering through non-profit agencies or government entities from litigation over possible economic damages associated with their volunteer work.  However, that law does not protect individual volunteers.

The bill would only apply to licensed medical providers and will not protect against litigation for damage done in a deliberate or criminal manner.  The measure would serve to clarify federal and state efforts to protect and encourage volunteering, specifically by health care professionals, in disaster situations.

U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) and Angus King (I-Maine) authored the measure, with Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) as additional cosponsors.