A recent bill co-sponsored by St. Petersburg representative Charlie Crist attempts to end the injustice that occurs when the government escapes liability for committing medical malpractice within the military. This new bill, the SFC. Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019 will give military members the right to sue military medical facilities for instances of medical malpractice unrelated to their military duties, such as childbirth-related illness and cancer misdiagnosis. The current state of medical malpractice law within the military community is described by Greg Steube, a Republican Representative from Bradenton, as a “travesty”. Under the current Feres Doctrine, established in the early 1950s by the U.S. Supreme Court, service members are prevented from suing military facilities in medical malpractice cases even when the health issue is unrelated to combat or military service.
Under the new law, service members who were previously unable to sue will now have their day in court. Examples of service members who are currently barred from making medical malpractice claims against the military are a female sailor whose botched surgery left her infertile, as well as a Green Beret whose symptoms were ignored but led to stage IV lung cancer. Now, with this new bill, these military personnel and others like them will finally see justice.
This new law would truly be a step in the right direction in terms of military health care policy. The current law on this matter is grossly outdated and does not serve the needs of today’s military. Thankfully, our government is structured so that when policy becomes outdated, it can be changed for the good of the people through the legislative process. With overwhelming bipartisan support from representatives Speier, Hudson, Raskin, and Crist, among others, this new bill will have an extremely positive impact for our troops and their families. Representative Lieu from California stated that, “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.”
Written by attorney Jeffrey Gordon.