Covid-19: Public back legal protection for doctors

25 June 2020

Doctors who have acted in good faith during the Covid-19 crisis, should not have to worry about future prosecution or investigation in relation to their treatment of patients during the Covid-19 crisis, according to 84% of the public.

In a YouGov survey of 1001 Ireland adults, commissioned by Medical Protection, a further 71% of the public believe that doctors should not be held personally accountable if a patient comes to harm due to delayed referrals or non Covid-19 services being unavailable or limited.

70% go on to say they support the introduction of temporary emergency laws, so doctors are protected from criminal and regulatory investigation in relation to their treatment of patients during the Covid-19 crisis.

Medical Protection is calling on the Government to introduce such laws for doctors, and for the Irish Medical Council to offer greater reassurance that doctors will not be subjected to regulatory action following decisions made in good faith during the crisis.

The world’s leading protection organisation supporting over 300,000 healthcare professionals around the world – 21,000 of those in Ireland – says the Government and Medical Council should take heed of what it says is an overwhelming show of support from the public to better protect doctors.

Dr Rob Hendry, Medical Director at Medical Protection, said: “Doctors have worked in uniquely challenging circumstances – they have been treating patients with what is still a new disease, making difficult clinical and triaging decisions, and often while struggling with inadequate PPE provision.

“Many have worked outside of their normal area of expertise or came out of retirement to support the HSE effort - in the knowledge that over 8000 healthcare workers have been diagnosed with Covid-19, 88% of which contracted the virus as staff in a healthcare setting.

“These doctors tell us they are concerned that they will face investigation for decisions they have made in good faith. Two in five doctors also told us they are worried they will be held personally accountable if patients come to harm as a result of delayed referrals. Now more than ever, they need to know they are supported.

“This public survey makes clear that there is overwhelming public support for doctors’ protection. We hope the Government will make a bold show of its support by granting doctors legal immunity in relation to their treatment of patients in good faith during the crisis. This will provide unmeasurable relief for many in the profession.

“We also hope that if and when the Medical Council receives complaints about doctors, they will not just stick to their commitment to take the specific facts of each case into account, but also reflect on the strength of public confidence in the profession.”


Notes to editors

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About Medical Protection

Medical Protection is a trading name of The Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”). MPS is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. We protect and support the professional interests of more than 300,000 members around the world. Membership provides access to expert advice and support and can also provide, depending on the type of membership required, the right to request indemnity for any complaints or claims arising from professional practice.

Our in-house experts assist with the wide range of legal and ethical problems that arise from professional practice. This can include clinical negligence claims, complaints, medical and dental council inquiries, legal and ethical dilemmas, disciplinary procedures, inquests and fatal accident inquiries.

Our philosophy is to support safe practice in medicine and dentistry by helping to avert problems in the first place. We do this by promoting risk management through our workshops, E-learning, clinical risk assessments, publications, conferences, lectures and presentations.
MPS is not an insurance company. All the benefits of membership of MPS are discretionary as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association.