On July 1, 2015, Governor Mike Pence signed into law a bill that gives immunity from lawsuits to healthcare providers who volunteer to give free healthcare in Indiana to persons at locations other than a doctor’s office, hospital or entity that is licensed by the State Department of Health. You may start to see “free healthcare clinic” at such places as churches. The healthcare is limited to noninvasive exams, treatments and procedures, except for these invasive procedures—routine dental services (which can be performed at a dentist’s office), injections, putting stitches in small cuts and incisions of boils and “superficial abscesses.”
For an example of this new law, consider this situation. If a woman with a lump in her breast goes to a “free healthcare” clinic, after the doctor performs an exam, he may tell the woman it’s only a cyst and she should not worry. If it turns out later that the cyst was really a tumor, she has no remedy under Indiana law because this law grants immunity to the doctor who volunteered his time to the clinic.
Here’s another example—let’s assume you go to a “free clinic” nurse, and she gives you the wrong injection, the wrong dosage or injects you with medication to which you are allergic. If, as a result, you become very sick or die, you or your family have no remedy under this law because the Indiana legislature has granted civil immunity to those volunteer healthcare providers.
Generally, all healthcare providers in the State of Indiana must comply with standards of care. Put another way, they must practice medicine putting the patient’s interest and safety first. To accomplish this standard of care, healthcare providers must be careful. This new law says that, if they are not careful, the healthcare workers who provide care at such clinics cannot be held responsible for injuries they cause you or your loved ones. You are unable to sue them.
The best way to know if you are receiving healthcare from a “free clinic” is if someone there presents you with a piece of paper to sign that states words to the effect that “the person providing healthcare service is immune from civil liability in relation to the provision of healthcare service.” If you are handed such a paper, be careful before signing it. You may be signing away your legal rights or the rights of a loved one.
Last year, Governor Pence made it clear that “free healthcare” was on the top of his agenda. He believes this law will encourage doctors and others to volunteer their skills more frequently. The Governor was insistent that the healthcare professionals who provide this care voluntarily are immune from any legal responsibility connected with the care they give. The attorneys of Langer and Langer are prepared to handle the challenges you might face when dealing with medical negligence as a result of free clinic services. Feel free to contact our offices if you have further questions about free healthcare in Indiana.