New legislation in Congress seeks to reverse a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in December, 1950 that prohibits members of the military from suing the government. Should this become law, GIs would be able to file medical malpractice litigation, reports Thomson Business Intelligence Service.
The legislation was proposed by Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., who said, “joining the military should not mean that one has to give up his or her right to hold medical providers accountable.”
Labeled The Carmelo Rodriquez Military Medical Accountability Act, the proposal is named for a U.S. Marine sergeant who died in 2007 from melanoma after military doctors in Iraq diagnosed his skin condition as a “birthmark or wart.” Rodriquez, of Ellenville, N.Y., died at the age of 29.
”The death of Carmelo Rodriguez is an extraordinary tragedy that has left his family with nowhere to turn,” Hinchey said.
The legislation would reverse the Feres Doctrine, which prohibits lawsuits against the federal government for its’ medical negligence that leads to harm or death of a service member. The Rodriguez Act would allow claims for “damages for death or personal injury resulting from negligence, the failure to act or wrongful acts in healthcare provided by the military,” reported Thomson.
The Supreme Court ruling from 1950 also bars families of service members from filing wrongful death or loss of consortium (depravation of benefits from relative relationship) actions when a service member is killed or injured, according to Wikipedia.
According to Answers.com, the Feres Doctrine ruling resulted from a suit brought by the executor of a U.S. soldier who died in a barracks fire. The executor maintained the military was negligent in housing a soldier in barracks whose defective heating system was “known to be unsafe.”