Palliative and Preventive Measures
The provision for medical benefits is a substantial component of workers’ compensation. Many states consider palliative measures to be included under the umbrella of “medical benefits.” Basically, palliative measures are those extended to the employee for pain and discomfort when there is no hope for recovery. The language of each state’s statute is central to whether palliative measures are covered. For example, when a state authorizes medical benefits for the cure and recovery of the injured employee, many courts will consider “recovery” separate from “cure.” Thus, the door is opened for palliative measures despite the lack of curability in the employee’s condition.
Courts will generally deny workers’ compensation coverage for preventive measures. Preventive measures are those intended to protect against the onslaught of disease or injury. Most often, the question of preventive measures arises in the area of inoculations. When the employer compels its employees to undergo inoculations, any harmful side effects from the inoculations would be within the course of employment and, concomitantly, the responsibility of the employer. However, when there is no employer compulsion, the likelihood of receiving benefits for preventive measures is drastically reduced. Consider the employee who claims to have been exposed to a contagious disease while on the job. Unless he can present evidence that he was, in fact, exposed, that the disease is an “occupational” one, and that he was disabled as a result of the disease, workers’ compensation would not apply to any preventive measures such as an inoculation against the disease.