Bill aims to end the military's immunity from medical malpractice

Ordinarily, if a hospital, nurse or doctor commits a grave act of negligence that seriously injures you or kills your loved one, you can sue for malpractice.

Not so, however, if you happen to be a service member injured by a military hospital, nurse or doctor. The Feres Doctrine, which is now a 69-year-old ruling by the United States Supreme Court, says that the Federal Tort Claims Act that allows private citizens to sue the government when they've been wronged by a federal employee or agency's negligence does not usually apply when one member of the military is injured by the negligence of another member of the military.

As one advocate for change pointed out, this means that a convicted criminal who suffers negligent medical care in prison has more right to sue than someone who served their country in the armed forces. While there are limited circumstances that allow a veteran to sue for malpractice, such suits are hard to press.

The SFC Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability bill hopes to change the law, giving service members new opportunities to file medical malpractice claims. Unfortunately for Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal, the change won't bring any relief to his family because it will come too late. The former Green Beret is dying of lung cancer after doctors failed to diagnose him in a timely manner.

The bill, if approved would not apply to past cases or incidents where medical mistakes were made on ships, during combat or in the field. It would only guarantee military personnel the same right to sue that everyone else has when they're the victim of medical negligence. The bill was introduced to Congress by Representative Jackie Speier of California. While there is some fierce opposition to the bill from some corners, the bill is enjoying bipartisan support among legislators.

If you've been the victim of medical malpractice or your family member has been, it's important to find out everything you can about your potential right to compensation. Your future -- and your family's future -- may depend upon it.

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