The obligation to provide medical assistance, and the employee’s right to refrain from performing work in conditions not complying with occupational health and safety regulations and lacking personal protective equipment – dilemmas during the COVID-19 epidemic
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Uniwersytet Jagielloński, Collegium Medicum / Jagiellonian University, Collegium Medicum, Kraków, Poland
Kancelaria Radców Prawnych, sp. p. w Warszawie / Law Firm of Attorney-at-Law in Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland
Uniwersytet Rzeszowski / University of Rzeszów, Rzeszów, Poland (Kolegium Nauk Medycznych / College of Medical Sciences)
Uniwersytet Łódzki / University of Lodz, Łódź, Poland (Wydział Ekonomiczno-Socjologiczny, Katedra Logistyki i Innowacji / Faculty of Economics and Sociology, Department of Logistics and Innovation)
Online publication date: 2021-11-08
Corresponding author
Dorota Karkowska   

Uniwersytet Jagielloński, Collegium Medicum, ul. Kopernika 25, 31-501 Kraków, Polska
Med Pr 2021;72(6):661–669
Background: With the emergence of an extraordinary situation in Poland related to the state of the COVID-19 epidemic, the question returned in the public debate whether in conditions that violate occupational health and safety, lack personal protective equipment the medical staff has the right to refrain from performing work. The National Labor Inspector clearly indicated that refraining from work does not apply to an employee whose employee’s duty is to save lives or property. The aim of the article is to analyze the premises of art. 210 of the Labor Code in the context of medical law and professional ethics and to provide the doctrine with an incentive to research on the difficult issue. Material and Methods: It uses the method of analyzing the current provisions of labor law and medical law. The jurisprudence of the Supreme Court and the views of the doctrine were analyzed. Results: The employee duty of a doctor and a nurse is always the obligation to “rescue” and “within” this obligation, medical personnel, unlike “all employees,” do not have the relevant right to refrain. In the context of the rules of practicing the medical profession providing for an exception, i.e., the doctor’s failure to take or withdraw from treatment of a patient for important reasons, in a situation where there is no urgent case. Conclusions: The starting point is, therefore, the distinction between the provisions of the Labor Code of a general character legis generalis and the provisions of the Act on the profession of doctor and dentist as specific provisions legis specialis. An employed doctor cannot agree to practice in conditions that expose patients to harm. Refraining from work by a doctor as an employee by referring is subject to limitations. Med Pr. 2021;72(6):661–9