On July 10th, Military Times published a heartbreaking story on medical malpractice in the military; a controversial system that often protects the government while military families pay with their lives after undergoing severe medical malpractice.

The story opens with the death of a Navy lieutenant who died after giving birth; where one terrible mistake gave rise to another, and gravely strayed from very basic standards. She hemorrhaged to death, ultimately succumbing to blood loss in childbirth; something that is known as a “never event” in the medical world.

The Feres Doctrine

The Feres doctrine supposedly keeps troops from suing the government for “injuries deemed incidental to military service”; however, many have pointed out that this doctrine was meant to apply to active troops in combat, but now wrongfully protects military hospitals and their staff from malpractice claims when it wasn’t intended to do so. Now, some attorneys who practice in medical malpractice are calling for this to be addressed in the Supreme Court, as it effectively discriminates against military personnel and strips them of a basic civil right. In sum, being injured while in combat and questioning a particular order is different from birth injuries and basic services that are provided at military hospitals to individuals who were not at the hospital due to an injury they received while on duty.

There is also concern that, without holding military hospitals accountable for medical malpractice, you also remove the incentive to prevent these types of injuries from happening due to basic negligence and straying from the standard in the field.

Alarming Statistics

In the five years between 2010 and 2015, over 2,000 claims for malpractice were filed administratively against Army, Air Force, and Navy medical centers and hospitals, with a significant percentage moving forward as medical malpractice lawsuits against the Navy and Army.

What’s perhaps more frightening are the number of “sentinel events” that occurred at military treatment facilities in 2015 alone (a “sentinel event” is basically an unexpected occurrence that involves serious injury or death to the patient). In 2015 alone, there were close to 200 of these reported. Some of these incidents include:

  • A patient who had to have both legs amputated after military surgeons accidentally punctured an aorta during gallbladder surgery;
  • A patient who died after doctors gave him medication that caused a life-threatening fever, but they did not administer the antidote for hours;
  • A patient who died after a melanoma was discovered but he was not told, nor treated, for it;
  • A patient who was given medication for which she had a known allergy. Her blood pressure proceeded to drop, cutting off the oxygen supply to her unborn child, who then suffered from brain and nerve damage;
  • A patient who died after suffering irreversible brain damage (after what was supposed to be a routine appendectomy); amongst many others.

This system has essentially left military doctors unaccountable for their mistakes. Plain and simple, it involves injuries and death to people who should be protected, but are not.

Medical Malpractice Attorneys

Those individuals who serve our country should not have their lives at risk simply by going to a military hospital. There are standards of treatment accepted within the medical community that must be adhered to when medical professionals are treating patients. When a health care provider deviates from those accepted standards, medical malpractice may have been committed.

If you have been the victim of medical malpractice—regardless of who you are, and where it took place—our attorneys are here to help. Contact us today for a free consultation.