Is Medical Malpractice Rampant in the Military?

We have often discussed the issue of medical malpractice in the military. Most of the discussion centered on the Feres doctrine–a legal bar to recovery for active duty military members for medical malpractice. There have been recent challenges seeking to more precisely define where the bar applies. There have also been attempts to overturn the ban altogether–though the Supreme Court has been cool to any attempt to change its rule from the original Feres case from 1950.

It is amid this backdrop regarding the limits on legal recovery, that news is coming out regarding the potential widespread malpractice that exists in military settings. For example, IVN News recently shared an article which argues that military medical malpractice is continually swept under the rug. The examples pointed out in the story pull at the heartstrings.

For example, one female sergeant went into labor while in the service in 2007. She gave birth via C-section while at an air force hospital base. Fortunately, the baby was born without complication, but the mother was not so lucky. The medical team accidentally cut the mother’s uterine artery. This led to massive blood loss which doctors could not stop in time. She died about twelve hours after delivering her child.

Of course this woman’s story is just one of many examples of errors made at military hospitals across the country. Almost everyone has heard about the range of problems at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Widespread infections have been documents and inadequate treatment of brain-damaged patients were noted. Many suicides occurred, likely because of a failure to follow basic protocols to keep patients safe.

As all of these horrific stories make news, many have asked whether the existence of the Feres doctrine actually makes the malpractice more likely. After all, the doctors and nurses who work at these facilities know full well that they cannot be held responsible for mistakes in the same way that doctors in other settings are.

Of course that does not mean that these professionals are providing worse care on purpose. However, it has been well documented that accountability affects quality of care. No matter what the profession, when there are strong incentives to prevent a certain outcome, more is done to prevent it. Much medical malpractice can be limited with better training, checklists, and clearer safety protocols. Without clear motivation to improve current safety standards, however, many medical caregivers in the military may lack the incentive to devote the time and resources toward improving care.

Medical Malpractice in Chicago
Unfortunately, active duty military members are still generally unable to recover for medical malpractice though that bar may not apply to dependents. However, other community members should remember that they have legal options if they ever receive poor care like that documented in these stories. Each Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm believes in the important deterrent role that full accountability plays in the matters. Please do not remain silent when mistakes were made. Demand that responsibility be taken and changes made to spare future patients the same harm.

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