House Unanimously Passes Legislation to Lessen Liability for HealthCare Professionals

Assuming the bill makes it through the Senate, it would provide immunity from civil liability for volunteers who provide services without compensation

February 22, 2012 -- A bill that would lessen the liability for healthcare professionals who provide services to people and places, such as homeless camps, passed the Oregon House unanimously yesterday.

Rep. Gene Whisnant, (R-Sunriver), who carried the bill to the floor, said, “House Bill 4027A provides immunity from civil liability persons, who are described in the bill, who are registered volunteers with non-profit organizations and provide services without compensation. It allows people to help our most needy.”

The bill had been carried over several times before finally being heard on the floor.

“Proponents of the bill needed an amendment and requested we had agreement before sending it to the Senate,” said Whisnant, adding that it would allow physicians to be included, assuming they complied with existing statutes.

Rep. Jason Conger (R-Bend), who supported the bill, said, “This is a bill that will clarify the law. It doesn’t involve any dramatic expansion of the law but it is clarity.”

Conger said the current law wasn’t clear to organizations that wanted to provide free healthcare services.

“The issue of the ambiguity, I guess, in the law has been brought to our attention by volunteer organizations who want to deliver healthcare and other services to homeless camps,” Conger said. “Lo, and behold, in central Oregon there is a significant population in homeless camps. They are not people who are accessing healthcare in the normal, clinical environment. We need to get these out there, and have volunteers who are willing to do it … with this clarification of the law.”

Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, had praise for all the work that had gone into the bill.

“I just want to commend my colleagues from east of the mountains working on this bill,” he said. “It’s a, fairly, straight-forward fix of a simple problem. An ‘aye’ vote would be very appropriate.”

However, with the session slated to end on, or before February 29, it’s not clear if there’ll be enough time to pass this bill through the Senate Healthcare Committee and then onto the Senate floor.

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