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Service Members And Medical Malpractice Claims


It is not well known to civilians that active duty military service members are not allowed to sue other active military services for personal injuries resulting from tort claims under the Feres Doctrine in the United States. The Feres Doctrine was derived from case law when the United States Supreme Court ruled in Feres v. United States that active duty service members cannot be sued by their fellow active duty service members for any torts that they commit, under the legal concept of sovereign immunity.

Active duty service members and their families obtain medical care through special military health care providers and hospitals. Under the Feres Doctrine, if an active duty service member suffers an injury while receiving care at a military hospital, or is killed as a result of receiving medical care, the active duty service member, or his or her surviving family members as the case may be, are prevented by federal law from suing for medical malpractice. This means that there are nearly 1.3 million active-duty service members who are unable to seek compensation or justice in the event that an active duty military doctor causes a medical error during their treatment, according to the New York Times.

When Inquiries Are Met With Silence

At best, an active duty service member who is injured when receiving medical care from other active duty service members can submit an inquiry as to what happened to cause his or her injuries. However, it is very difficult to get the military to reply with useful information, if anything at all. The military keeps tight-lipped when it comes to acknowledging medical errors or admitting to fault, which can leave injured active service members with unanswered questions and nowhere to turn. But the military’s silence on the matter is imposed by federal law, and not due to ill-will towards injured active military service members. The military simply cannot violate the terms set forth in the federal confidentiality law codified in 10 U.S.C. Section 1102.

Due to the Feres Doctrine and the federal confidentiality law concerning medical quality assurance records, active military service members are left with no recourse when they are injured by the medical negligence or errors of other active duty service members. However, as civilians, the spouses and dependents of active-duty service members are able to file medical malpractice lawsuits against military doctors and hospitals if they are injured as a result of medical errors or medical negligence.

While active duty service members are not able to sue the United States for medical malpractice claims, the dependents and spouses of active duty members certainly can. Military retirees may also sue for medical malpractice. If you, as a civilian, have a medical malpractice claim against a military doctor or hospital, please contact one of the medical malpractice attorneys at Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. today to discuss your case. We offer a free initial consultation that is free of charge, so why wait? Call us at (215) 567-3500 or send us an email through our online contact form available here.

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