Utah’s Legislature passed a bill on Friday granting legal immunity to doctors prescribing off-label and experimental medications to COVID-19 patients. Called the “Right to Try” measure, its authors seek to empower doctors to confidently treat patients without fear of reprisal unless gross negligence or intentional or malicious misconduct is proven. These protections apply during a public health crisis such as the current pandemic. Only one lawmaker voted against passing the bill to the House with a concern that substandard care in nursing homes could be shielded from accountability.
As reported by KUER, House Minority Leader Brian King fretted about the bill’s “one-size-fits-all immunity.” Now doctors in Utah treating infected COVID-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine, for example, have legislative backing.
Senate Bill 3002, sponsored by Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, states that a healthcare provider would be “immune from civil liability for any harm resulting from any act or omission in the course of providing health care during a declared major public health emergency” if the health care was provided in good faith or “the act or omission was the direct result of providing health care to a patient for the illness or condition that resulted in the declared major public health emergency.” Val Peterson sponsored the bill from the House.
This law does require the doctor to inform the patient of the potential risks as well as notify that the payer may decline coverage. This could leave the patient with the full bill. Utah lawmakers considered the value-chain and included in the trail of immunity anyone helping the state to manufacture, distribute, or dispense off-label drugs “If the assistance is provided under contract with and under the direction of the state agency.” Moreover, the health professionals involved would be protected.