There has recently been much talk among those who care about fair access to the justice system regarding the “Feres Doctrine” which prohibits military service members from suing the United States government for medical malpractice. Many horrific stories abound about members of the armed forces who have been seriously injured and killed because of basic lapses in care provided by their caregivers at military hospitals and similar locations. However, because of the now fifty year old legal principle established in Feres v. United States, those innocent victims of even the most egregious forms of medical malpractice are denied the ability to use the legal system to protect their rights.
This rule is not rooted in any logic, as the spouses of those individuals do not face a similar bar. In addition, the ban does not apply to non-active duty service members. Instead, only those active duty individuals who are currently serving our country are denied the same rights which are granted to all citizens.
For example, About Lawsuits reported this week on a new case filed by the wife of an Iraqi war veteran against a Veteran’s Administration hospital. This type of suit is allowed even under the Feres Doctrine. According to documents filing in the medical malpractice lawsuit, the woman alleges that the hospital gave her husband a lethal drug cocktail that led to his death. According to the complaint filed last month, the woman alleges that staff members at the facility failed to determine what other drugs the man was taking. That medication mistake led them to prescribe the veteran a combination of drugs that ultimately killed him.
The victim had been partially disabled in the Iraq War during the war while working to save the crew of a downed helicopter. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his conduct after also suffering a traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder.
The victim originally went to the Veteran’s hospital to seek treatment for a knee injury. Following his death, an autopsy revealed that he had died of a pulmonary embolism caused by mixed drug intoxication. Specifically, Ambien, morphine, Celexa, hydromorphone, promethazine, and Remeron were all found in the man’s bloodstream. There was clearly some miscommunication and problematic treatment issues that allowed the mix of drugs to be given to the man in the way that it was given. Had an accurate assessment been conduct by those treating the man, then he would likely still be alive today.
Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys are saddened that so many families, including the one in this case, are forced to undergo the paint that these medical mistakes cause. It is vital that these victims maintain access to the legal justice system to hold the negligent medical professionals accountable for their conduct. There is no excuse for errors like the one that appears to have occurred in this case. It is often only through the legal system that victims are able to learn specifically how the miscalculation arose and to force changes to prevent future victims from suffering the same fate.
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