Military Personnel Could Sue for Medical Malpractice Under Crist Proposal
Under current law, members of the military and their families are prevented from suing the U.S. for medical malpractice. A bipartisan proposal, co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, would change that.
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, is co-sponsoring a bill that would allow military service members to sue the Department of Defense for instances of medical malpractice unrelated to their military duties.
Currently, the Feres Doctrine, which originated in a 1950 U.S. Supreme Court case, prevents service members from having their day in court when malpractice by military health care providers unconnected to combat results in severe injury or even death.That means members of the military have no recourse against medical providers after being misdiagnosed, mistreated, or subjected to botched surgeries, even though this malpractice occurred in health care settings in which all other Americans have that right.
By creating an exemption to the Federal Tort Claims Act to allow service members to sue the military for medical malpractice, the bipartisan proposal would give service members the same rights as others. The bill is called the Sfc. Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019 after a service member who developed terminal lung cancer after being misdiagnosed in a military health facility. (For background on the Stayskal Act, click here. For a copy of the bill, click here.)
“Current law prevents service members and their families from seeking justice when hurt or killed due to medical malpractice,” Crist said. “This legislation reverses misguided policy for non-combat-related malpractice, like child birth and cancer misdiagnosis. Our military and their families deserve better — eliminating the Feres Doctrine is simply the right thing to do.”
Crist is co-sponsoring the bipartisan bill with Reps. Jackie Speier, D-CA; Richard Hudson, R-NC; Jamie Raskin, D-MD; Guy Reschenthaler, R-PA; Ted Lieu, D-CA; Markwayne Mullin, R-OK: and Greg Steube, R-Bradenton.
“The brave men and women of our Armed Forces are the only people denied the benefits of the United States’ waiver of sovereign immunity when they are medically malpracticed upon at military hospitals,” Steube said. “This bill will restore those rights and I’m proud to be an original co-sponsor. Our servicemembers sacrifice so much for our country and they deserve at least this much.”
Speier, chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, said, “The Feres Doctrine is a travesty. It denies service members who put their lives on the line for this country the same access to the justice system enjoyed by service members’ spouses, other federal employees, and even prisoners. Creating an exemption for medical malpractice is long overdue. I’m thrilled to have a bipartisan group of colleagues join me in addressing this injustice for our service members and their families, who bear the burden of service as well.”
Lieu added, “One court case decided almost 70 years ago continues to devastate service members and their families. Normally, the United States allows lawsuits by its employees for personal injury or death caused by negligence. But in the case of our military members, the courts have spoken – the United States is not liable for injuries to active duty servicemembers, even for non-combat injuries.
“In my mind, a sailor whose botched surgery left her infertile should be able to pursue justice. So should the wife of a Green Beret whose husband is dying because doctors chronically downplayed symptoms that led to his Stage IV lung cancer. The bottom line is this: We have asked our men and women in uniform to sacrifice more than most can imagine. The last thing we should do is deny them their day in court. I am proud to join Rep. Speier on a technical fix to the law to ensure that all who have served can seek justice.”
Crist represents Florida’s 13th Congressional District, which includes south and mid-Pinellas County.
For information about Crist, go to crist.house.gov.
Charlie Crist | Greg Steube | Veterans | Health Care | Medical Malpractice | Tampabay News
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