When men and women join our armed forces they give up certain rights. For instance, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines cannot sue the government for injuries during training or in combat. This law is known as the Feres doctrine, named after a 1950 Supreme Court case. The court held that active duty members of the military cannot sue the government for injuries “incidental to military service.”
While injuries during combat or while training are a relatively common part of military service, this law also prevents active duty military from suing government doctors and hospitals for medical malpractice. As a result, members of the military and their loved ones cannot get justice after a serious injury or death of a loved one.
The human costs of the Feres doctrine
Generally, active duty military can only recover military disability benefits, instead of potentially far greater damages in a successful lawsuit. A Military Times article titled Tragedy and injustice: The heartbreaking truth about military medical malpractice focuses on some particularly tragic cases, such as the one below.
On March 8, 2013, Navy lieutenant Rebekah Moani Daniel gave birth to her daughter. After delivery, Lieutenant Daniel began bleeding profusely. Drugs failed to stop the bleeding, and the doctors in charge of the case waited more than 90 minutes longer than industry standards to order a blood transfusion. Tragically, Lieutenant Daniel died due to the loss of blood. It is very rare for a mother to bleed to death after delivery, and many times, these deaths are the result of medical malpractice.
While Lieutenant Daniel’s husband has filed a medical malpractice suit against the hospital, he may not be able to proceed due to the Feres doctrine. While many in the legal community believe this law should be overturned, the Feres doctrine is a major barrier for the men and women who serve our country.
Anyone who has been harmed by a doctor or other medical professional’s negligence needs to hire lawyers who have the experience, skill and resources to make a strong case. For years, individuals and families throughout Delaware have relied on the injury attorneys of Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor.
Source: Tragedy and injustice: The heartbreaking truth about military medical malpractice, by Patricia Kime, Military Times, July 10, 2016