FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle+RSS Feed
Fire EMSEMS TodayEMS Insider

Medical Airlift Service Compromised by Lack of Liability Protection

A relief service that enlists thousands of pilots to transport patients, doctors and supplies during the nation's medical emergencies is being compromised by lack of liability protection from the government, according to members of Congress.

Mercy Medical Airlift received a nearly $1 million government grant after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to create a special unit to help with national disasters. The head of Mercy says Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has failed to set up a workable system for volunteer pilots to join disaster response.

Congress also has not passed legislation that would protect volunteer pilots from frivolous, costly lawsuits, according to Ed Boyer, Mercy's founder.

Without the protection, some pilots may stop volunteering and some relief groups may be reluctant to use pilots' services during a disaster, Boyer said.

The House of Representatives passed protective legislation in previous sessions of Congress, but safeguards weren't put in place because the Senate didn't act.

"It is no longer worth it for well-meaning people to be good Samaritans in today's legal climate," says Rep. Thelma Drake, R-Va., who is pushing liability-protection legislation in the House. "Many volunteer pilots are hanging up their flight suits at a time when people need their help more than ever."

Other congressional members say they are worried that the problems Mercy faces may have a chilling effect on other services offering emergency aid.

"These pilots and charitable organizations provide invaluable service," says Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. He introduced a bill last month in the Senate under which pilots would still carry insurance but would not be subject to lawsuits that could put them "at risk of losing their personal investments, home, business and other assets, potentially bringing them to financial ruin" for doing good deeds.

Boyer says the charitable group also is frustrated by its inability to get FEMA to include it in disaster planning efforts.

FEMA spokesman James McIntyre says the agency is aware of the program and will "continue working with (Mercy) on further defining their disaster-related role."

McIntyre says it is rare that national disasters are so severe that state and local governments need help with medical transportation.

"Use of a donated service is a choice and not a mandate" in disasters, he says.


Collapse Causes Evacuation at Puerto Rico Condominium

Nearly two dozen people are displaced after a water tank collapsed through the roof.

Car Hits Wall at LAX Critically Injuring Girl

9-year old girl was critically injured when a car struck her and then a wall at Los Angeles International Airport.

More Bodies Recovered from Texas Flood

At least 28 killed nationwide due to storms.

Secretary of State Suffers Fractured Femur in Bicycle Crash

Paramedics and a physician were on hand as part of the motorcade.

10 Injured in Manhattan Crane Load Collapse

Air-conditioning unit broke free and fell 28-stories onto Madison Avenue.

Wisconsin City Council Turns Over EMS to Hospital

Vote in Platteville transfers control of EMS to Southwest health Center.

Features by Topic

Featured Careers




Learn about new products and innovations featured at EMS Today 2015


JEMS Connect




Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts