Medical malpractice is a devastating event for many Boston families, but some families are not allowed to seek redress for their love one’s suffering because of an antiquated legal rule that blocks medical malpractice lawsuits against military hospitals. Currently military hospitals are shielded from malpractice suits under the Feres Doctrine.

One of the most serious attacks on the Feres Doctrine was blocked by the United States Supreme Court recently, which means that politicians must spearhead the change in the law in order to protect military families. The case rejected by the court centered around the wrongful death of a young Air Force staff sergeant. The 25-year-old sergeant died during a routine appendectomy, which is a surgery that removes the vermiform appendix. The sergeant died from a hospital error that occurred when the nurse put a tube down the wrong part of the young man’s throat.

At a civilian hospital the family could have filed a wrongful death and medical malpractice action against the hospital. Medical malpractice actions hold hospitals accountable for the negligence of their staff members in treating or diagnosing an illness or other medical issue. A wrongful death action is a type of lawsuit that arises when the negligence of another causes a patient’s death.

In response to the court’s refusal to even hear the case challenging the Feres Doctrine, a congressman vowed to redouble his crusade to take away the special immunity that military hospitals enjoy from lawsuits over staff negligence in treating United States service members.

Source: Insurance Journal, “Supreme Court Declines to Hear Military Medical Liability Case,” Mitch Stacy, 6/30/11