We have often reported on the legal challenges faced by military service members (and sometimes their family) when trying to hold negligent doctors accountability for committing medical errors. Past rulings from the court have severely limited the rights military personnel to recover following these lapses. The general concern in the past was that allowing such suits for active military personnel might open up a can of worms for medical treatment conducting in the heat of battle. Obviously there is a higher likelihood of some adverse outcome if medical treatment is provided on a battlefield as opposed to a traditional hospital. However, that general principle has been extended such that military doctors are virtually immune from full accountability for their errors, even when making mistakes in the comfort of military hospitals far from anything that could be called a battlefield.
A few recent cases have been brought hoping to challenge past precedent and open the door for those severely hurt (or killed) as a result of poor care by military doctors. Yet most of those challenges have gone nowhere.
In a relatively new decision, however, a glimmer of hope was provided to those hoping to alter past precedents. In an opinion released earlier this week, Levin v. United States, the high court ruled that sovereign immunity principles did not apply to bar a medical malpractice suit by a military veteran who suffered harm as a result of a botch cataract surgery.