A provision nestled deep in the defense-spending bill currently before the President creates an exception to the outdated Feres Doctrine. Military members may not be able to pursue compensation for medical malpractice.
In September, we told you about the SFC Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act. This legislation would allow military members to sue for medical malpractice.
The provision in the National Defense Authorization Act is named after Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal, a serviceman who was misdiagnosed in an Army hospital. Doctors diagnosed Stayskal with pneumonia, but he actually has lung cancer. Stayskal later received a diagnosis by a civilian doctor. Not only does he have cancer, but it is Stage IV. Under the Feres Doctrine, Stayskal had no recourse against the doctors or VA hospital. He was unable to pursue compensation for medical malpractice.
Military Members Barred from Pursuing Compensation for Medical Malpractice
For years, military members have been unable to take legal action if they are injured due to medical malpractice or negligence. In 1950, the Supreme Court case Feres v. United States resulted in barring servicemen and servicewomen from suing the government.
Under the Feres Doctrine, military members cannot file a lawsuit against other government employees, including healthcare providers. The result of the doctrine is dozens of medical malpractice claims being thrown out. Furthermore, countless plaintiffs have been discouraged from taking legal action due to the doctrine.
The result of the Feres Doctrine is injustice for the people who serve the U.S. military. Estimates suggest that tens of thousands of military members and their families have been harmed by the Feres Doctrine. Jonathan Turley, an expert on the Feres Doctrine says the doctrine is:
“One of the one of the most ill considered and harmful doctrines ever created by the Supreme Court. There is no reason why our military should be left exposed to medical malpractice simply because they wear a uniform in defense of our country.”
What the New Provision Means for Military Members
If signed, the provision in the National Defense Authorization Act will allow military members compensation for medical malpractice. It will not provide military members the same rights as civilians who suffer a medical malpractice injury, however. Instead, military members who are victims of medical malpractice will have their claims handled administratively.
Rather than filing a lawsuit, the Department of Defense will investigate the claims. The claims process will be similar to workers’ compensation claims. Claimants will receive payment through federal court guidelines, which will determine the amount by average compensation for certain injuries. These claims have a three year statute of limitations.
Are You a Servicemember Injured Due to Medical Malpractice?
If you are a servicemember or a family member and you believe that you are a victim of medical malpractice, contact Brown, Christie & Green. Our medical malpractice attorneys are skilled in handling medical malpractice and negligence claims as well as VA claims.
We are well aware of the complications that the Feres Doctrine causes servicemen and servicewomen and their families. We are also aware that you deserve compensation and justice when a healthcare provider causes you harm. Our team is dedicated to helping you protect your rights and get the compensation that you deserve.
To find out how we can help you get compensation for medical malpractice, contact our Houston medical malpractice attorney by calling 1-800-600-4210. You can also request a free legal consultation by completing our online form.