All of our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers believe that fair access to the legal system is a right which should never be taken away from any community member. That is exactly why we fight so vigorously against misguided attempts to enact so-called “tort reform” legislation. While the word reform often invokes an idea of improvement, in this case it is merely a deceptive attempt by big-spending interests to increase their own profit margins at the expense of vulnerable victims.
Unfortunately, fair access to the legal system has been under attack long before this latest misguided attempt to limit victim’s rights. For example, the Feres Doctrine was reached over 60 years ago. It is a legal principle that tragically treats active-duty service members as having less rights when it comes to medical malpractice as regular civilians. There are few defenders of this seemingly indefensible principle, and advocates on all sides have called for changes to level the playing field. Med Page Today recently discussed the situation, explaining how even those who are generally opponents of the medical malpractice system believe that some changes need to be made to ensure service members do not continue to lose this vital legal right.
A recent survey among service members indicated that less than 40% were satisfied with the disability evaluation system. There is clearly widespread dissatisfaction with the system among its beneficiaries. Add the Feres Doctrine to that dissatisfaction which essentially prohibits service members from suing their negligent caregivers for the consequences of their actions. So not only are these brave men and women seemingly unhappy with much of the medical care they are given, they can rarely do anything about it legally even in the most egregious situations.
Previous Supreme Court decisions have tried to rationalize the policy’s inequality by stating that doing otherwise would undermine military rationale. But authors of a new editorial study in the New England Journal of Medicine-all doctors themselves who are not usually proponents of the current legal system-explained that few medical malpractice claims would implicate strategic military decisions. The authors in this study suggest that a hybrid system should be adopted where the Feres Doctrine is not repealed but modified, so that victims receive more benefits than they currently do without full access to the civil justice system.
However, in the end there is no reason to deny our service members any basic legal rights. Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys will continue to defend the legal system that has its roots in medieval England, was protected vigorously by our nation’s Founding Fathers, and continue to be a hallmark of fairness of equality. It is no small achievement for our courts to have created an environment where all types of community members, regardless of the amount of money they have or station in life, can share their story with other community members and ask for their judgment. It would be a grave injustice for this cherished institution to be placed in straightjacket by those who don’t like the decisions reached by impartial jury members. We all must continue to fight tort reform measures in state legislatures. In addition, it is also important to share this same message of equality with those who are in a position to change the long-standing injustice of the Feres Doctrine. There is no reason why our military members should be less protected than other community members when it comes to the medical care to which they are entitled. The doctrine needs to change and fairness and equality in the eyes of the law should be protected.
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