Military Personnel Not Allowed to Sue for Medical Malpractice

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

No matter how egregious their medical care may be, even resulting in death, military personnel cannot sue the government. This reality, in existence now for almost 60 years, has left Tommy and Connie Wilson of Hartwell, GA, sickened, fearing the doctors allegedly responsible for their daughter’s death will not be held accountable.

Their daughter, Cindy Wilson, was a 37-year-old technical sergeant in the U.S. Air Force when she gave birth to her first child in February 2007 at Langley Air Force Base. Military doctors handling Wilson’s delivery decided to perform a cesarean section, and in the process, severed a uterine artery that caused massive internal bleeding. To make matters worse, two surgical sponges were left inside Wilson’s body. Although the baby lived, the mother died 12 hours after giving birth.
Wilson’s parents have no recourse against the Air Force because of the Feres Doctrine, which arose out of a 1950 U.S. Supreme Court case (Feres v. United States) involving a soldier who died after an Army doctor left a 30-by-18-inch towel inside his body. The families of many other victims of military medical malpractice have not had their day in court, including a naval officer who died after his cancer was diagnosed as eczema and an Air Force staff sergeant who was left brain-dead after doctors failed to diagnose his appendicitis in time.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Military Can’t Be Sued for Malpractice (by Byron Pitts, CBS News)
Feres v. United States (1950) (U.S. Supreme Court Center)


Jeffrey Ziegler 11 years ago
As many of you know and as been shown on 60 Minutes and many other mainstream documentaries recently, the Feres Doctrine "protects" the US Government from being sued for things like medical malpractice. The most recent unfortunate case being SGT Carmelo Rodriguez and going all the way back to the time when an airman complained of stomach pains after surgery - only to find out that a 7-inch surgical towel with “Property of US Air Force” written on it was found inside of him. Be aware that Feres also protects the US military from legal malpractice. While I was on active duty with the US Army, I was threatened by a US Army lawyer named Captain Matthew Fitzgerald to do something which was contrary to the US Army legal regulations (which I did not know at the time but he did). Fitzgerald’s motive was to tout this as his first accomplishment on his annual performance report of which I later got a copy. This threat resulted in my losing over $50,000 of my personal funds. When I asked the top lawyer (now Lieutenant General Dana Chipman) for assistance, the first thing they did was appoint Fitzgerald’s previous boss and a very obvious friend to “investigate.” Since there was no wrongdoing found as a result of this faux investigation but specifics were protected by the Privacy Act , I filed the same complaint with Fitzgerald’s Oregon State Bar which is NOT PROTECTED under privacy laws. Evidence showed that Fitzgerald lied no less than 10 times to his Oregon State Bar. It was all thrown out of federal court due to Feres although I had a slam-dunk case with all evidence in my favor. Just to add insult to my financial injury, Fitzgerald got promoted to Major.
Ed Fremer 13 years ago
The Military uses the Feres Doctrine to cover up and protect themselves against Medical Malpractice in the Cases involving Dean Witt and Carmel Rodriguez. It also protects the Military in cases involving Marines being exposed to Toxic chemicals on US Bases on US soil.
Ed Fremer 13 years ago
My son Michael Fremer was killed at Fort Polk, La on 2/13/08 because of Army Negligence at the conclusion of a training exercise. The Army can not be held accountable because of the Feres Doctrine. This law needs to be changed. Why is the Army exempt from being held accountable for Negligence?

Leave a comment