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Preventable Medical Mistakes in the Military

Preventable medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Estimates place the number of deaths anywhere between 250,00 - 400,000 people each year, with countless more injuries attributed to medical errors. In the civilian arena, if you or a loved one are injured, you may be able to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover damages. However, under current law, when a military doctor, hospital or other medical staff acts negligently, even reckless, and harms a patient, the victim and his/her loved one may be left without recourse.

The Ferris Doctrine, established in 1950, found that members of the military cannot sue the United States government for any reason, including negligent medical care. The rule centers on a provision that members of the military cannot sue for injuries that are “incident to service.” Just what constitutes actions that are incident to service has been debated, with many stating that childbirth is clearly not incident to service. By defining it as such, critics claim that the Feres Dcotrine strips military members of a constitutional right to seek redress for grievances, while at the same time, allowing military hospitals and doctors not to held accountable for negligent care.

A California man has petitioned the Supreme Court and is seeking to change this. In 2014, his wife – a Navy Lieutenant - died following a low-risk pregnancy and delivery. She died when the hospital failed to act expeditiously to stop her post-partum hemorrhaging, he asserts. However, his wrongful death medical malpractice action has been dismissed because she was an active duty service member, and thus barred by the Ferris Doctrine.

Whether the Supreme Court will hear this matter is unknown. As San Diego lawyers committed to protecting and improving medical safety for all patients we are hopeful this rule will be overturned.

For more information or if you or a loved one has suffered any type of injury due to medical negligence, please contact the experienced Los Angeles medical malpractice lawyers at Bostwick & Peterson, LLP for an immediate consultation.


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