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PA Medical Society Petitions For Immunity From Malpractice During Coronavirus

Jessica Kourkounis


On today's program: A physicians group asks for protections against malpractice lawsuits; a look at who has the legal authority to reopen the government; and a string of middlemen, including a Pittsburgh businessman, were duped by one of the largest scams of the pandemic. 

Physicians group wants immunity from liability during pandemic
(00:00 — 08:03)

The president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society says there are doctors, nurses and other health care workers working outside their specialty areas, and he wants Gov. Tom Wolf to protect them from potential medical malpractice suits in the future.

Dr. Lawrence John, a Pittsburgh-area physician, petitioned on behalf of doctors, nurses, assistants and others “so they can focus on the care of the patient and try very hard to save their lives and not worry about a bad outcome that they might not have any opportunity to prevent.”

Temporary immunity would help professionals prone to second-guessing themselves, he says, though it would not protect practitioners from everything.

“I think if there is an egregious error made, patients would certainly have an opportunity to bring a case,” says John. “How one might define egregious versus doing the best they can might be the gray area.”

The proposed protections would also cover medical professionals who come out of retirement to treat COVID-19 patients. According to John, eight states have granted temporary immunity through legislation or executive orders from governors. He says he hopes to get an answer from Wolf this week.

Trump’s ‘total authority’ versus states rights
(08:13 — 13:01)

President Donald Trump says he has “total authority” to reopen the government once the threat of coronavirus has passed, but governors—including Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf—say the federal government left it to states to decide when and how to shut down, and state officials will be the ones to decide when and how to lift restrictions when the time comes.

“Given the fact that we had the responsibility for closing the state down essentially, we also have the responsibility and feet on the ground here and people who know best what’s going on in our states to figure out how we’re going to reopen,” Wolf says.

WESA legal analyst and University of Pittsburgh professor David Harris cites the 10th Amendment. The president has no authority over what the states and their governors decide to do, he says.

“Governors are entitled to use this power because of what we call the police power in government,” he says, “the power to look to issues of public safety and public health.”   

The President can issue guidelines and present a national plan to assist states.

Pittsburgh investigators break up an elaborate PPE scam
(13:12 — 17:53)

Scott Brady, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, made national headlines this month after he broke up what may be the largest fraud attempt in the era of the coronavirus. 

90.5 WESA's Chris Potter spoke with Brady about the case and about what might have happened if the 39 million N95 masks at the heart of the scam had been real.

Companies and consumers can share concerns about suspected COVID-19 fraud with state officials at 1-888-219-9372. 

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich contributed to this report.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
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