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U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear Case that Challenges Feres Doctrine


The Supreme Court of the United States has not rejected a case challenging the Feres Doctrine. The Feres Doctrine prevents U.S. service members from suing the federal government for injuries occurring in the line of duty. The question the Supreme Court will be asked to answer is whether or not the Feres Doctrine applies to instances of medical malpractice.

For decades, the Feres Doctrine has prevented active service members from recovering damages for incidents that are considered incidental to their line of work. While the doctrine may make sense in terms of battle injuries or other torts, it actually takes rights away from U.S. service members that other U.S. citizens have; namely, U.S. citizens have a right to sue their doctors if they fail to deliver a reasonable standard of care.

Coast Guard Member’s Wife Dies in Childbirth 

The lawsuit is being brought by former Coast Guardsman Walter Daniel on behalf of his wife, Rebekah Daniel. Rebekah Daniel was a Navy lieutenant who worked as a nurse at the very hospital she died in. According to the lawsuit, R. Daniel died after doctors at the Naval Hospital Bremerton failed to respond to excessive bleeding she suffered after delivering her baby. Four hours later, she died.

Under the Feres Doctrine, troops cannot sue the federal government for negligence committed by other military personnel. While the Feres Doctrine has sound rationale behind it, it was largely meant to protect battle commanders and medics who are on the battlefield, not hospital employees that may be employed by the U.S. military or U.S. military themselves. However, the Feres Doctrine has been routinely interpreted to prevent lawsuits against the government brought on behalf of troops who are on active duty. This was the case for Rebekah and Walter Daniel.

Restricting Reach of Feres Doctrine Gives Troops the Same Rights as Others 

Part of the infuriating truth relating to this lawsuit is that troops do not have the same rights as other U.S. citizens. If the U.S. Supreme court were to decide that it’s in the best interests of U.S. military personnel (and therefore the U.S. as a whole) to allow military members to file suit against negligent hospitals and doctors it would really only mean giving them the same rights that everyone else already has.

Physicians who are treating military personnel have full immunity from medical malpractice. Proponents of restricting the Feres Doctrine to cases that do not involve medical malpractice note that there are no consequences for doctors who provide a substandard quality of care to military patients.

Talk to a St. Petersburg Medical Malpractice Attorney 

The St. Petersburg medical malpractice attorney at Masterson & Hoag, P.A. have recovered millions of dollars in damages from clients who were injured or lost loved ones as a result of medical negligence. If you’ve been injured because a doctor did not uphold  the standard of care, give us a call or contact us online for a free case evaluation today.




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