Are Healthcare Professionals in New York Immune from Civil and Criminal Liability?

For people who are employed in most capacities in the health care industry in New York, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, many have found themselves overwhelmed by the number of patients they are treating and struggle to meet all of their needs. To give some medical professionals a break during these trying times, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a new act into law extending many more protections to these individuals, as well as healthcare facilities, from civil and criminal liability. Here is an overview of the new protections. 

Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act

The Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act (EDTPA) recognizes the strain on the healthcare system imposed by treating all patients as positive for COVID-19 until it has been proven otherwise. The EDTPA’s purpose is to encourage healthcare professionals to act in good faith and use their best professional judgment by protecting these individuals from liability due to the overwhelmed system and innocent human error. 

Protections Under the Act

The EDTPA grants civil and criminal immunity to almost every healthcare worker if they act in good faith and in some way are involved in the COVID-19 pandemic response. The law will remain in effect until the state of emergency in New York ends. 

Immunity Protections

The EDTPA gives qualified civil and criminal immunity claims if:

  1. The healthcare professional was providing or arranging for healthcare services following any COVID-19 emergency rule or as provided by law, and
  2. Either an alleged omission or negligence takes place when:
    1. Arranging for healthcare treatment or services, or
    2. Deciding, per New York’s directives, on the response to be taken to the outbreak, and
  3. The professional acts in good faith, and
  4. There was no willful, intentional act or any action constituting gross negligence, reckless misconduct, intentional infliction of harm, or criminal misconduct. 

Which New York Healthcare Professionals are Immune?

Under the new law, immunity is granted to many professionals whether their services are rendered in the capacity of an employee, volunteer, independent contractor, or agent of another facility or healthcare provider. The EDTPA immunity extends to:

  • Physicians
  • Physician assistants
  • Nurses and Nurse practitioners 
  • Nurse attendants or Certified nursing aides (also those participating in certified training programs)
  • Registered special assistants
  • Psychologists
  • Pharmacists
  • Midwives
  • Mental health practitioners including psychoanalysts, licensed mental health counselors, and marriage and family counselors
  • Certified EMTs
  • Social workers
  • Clinical laboratory technicians
  • Respiratory therapists and technicians
  • Home care services workers
  • Healthcare workers giving services per the COVID-19 emergency rule (this includes those providers brought out of retirement or licensed in another state who are working in New York due to the state of emergency)
  • Healthcare facility administrators, supervisors, executives, trustees, board members, and any others who direct, supervise, or manage a facility or serve in any of those roles. 

New York Employment Lawyer

Drastic times call for drastic measures, so New York has stepped in and provided extra protections for those on the front line when judgment calls must be made, and gray areas exist. However, for many professionals these rules and guidelines may not be clear. To get guidance about whether the EDTPA applies to you, how to operate within its guidelines, and what protections apply to you, contact the experienced employment lawyers at MOWK Law. We can help explain the act in greater detail and protect your best interests, so contact us today with your questions.