What is the legal responsibility for medical mission nurses working as volunteers in developing countries? What if there is no physician present with the nurses as in a clinic setting?
Dear Nancy replies:
A response to your question is beyond the scope of this column and is further complicated by the fact that medical missionary projects go to many different countries outside the U.S. so there is no one law or a set of laws that can be cited. However, some general comments can be made.
Most U.S. professional liability insurance companies do not provide liability insurance coverage for those healthcare providers who are part of such projects because of the high premiums, lack of coverage in many countries and limited coverage when it is available. One insurance company, Gallagher Charitable International Insurance Services (http://www.aaintl.com/overseas_liability.cfm)
cites an organization that provides such insurance if the healthcare provider applicant is eligible. The coverage is provided by a trust. The name and contact information of the trust is as follows:
International Helpers (Guernsey) Trust, Maison Trinity, Trinity Square, St. Peter Port, Guernsey, GY1 4AT Channel Islands, +44 (0) 1481 740 009.
If one is interested in seeking coverage under this trust, the healthcare provider, including nurses, must contact the trust itself to begin the online application process. The website for the trust is (www.internationalhelpers.co.gg). There may be other trusts or insurance companies outside the U.S. providing professional liability protection for those who provide care to individuals in developing countries. An online search would be a good start in identifying those.
Such companies outside the U.S. may not be subject to regulation within the U.S. and may not be able to solicit business in the U.S. Therefore, be sure to read the policy you purchase carefully and determine the cost for the coverage before agreeing to purchase it, what it covers, what exclusions, if any, exist, and your responsibilities under the insurance policy. Also important will be the length of time the policy will be in force for you. For example, if you are going to be in a medical missionary project for a year, be sure coverage is available for the entire year. If your time with the project will be longer, coverage needs to be purchased during that entire time as well.