Posted on Aug 21, 2014
CPT Battery Commander
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The Feres Doctrine, which protects the government and physicians from being sued for malpractice, has been around since 1950.

One example is when doctors at Travis Air Force base left an airman in a vegetative state after what was supposed to be a simple appendectomy. After the initial surgery was botched, the aftercare was worse, with inserting the breathing tube into the stomach and using resuscitation equipment for children on him. His family pulled him off of life support three months later. The Supreme court refused to even hear the case.

A recent case from late 2013 highlights an active duty pregnant female, SPC January Ritchie, that gave birth to a premature baby, which died shortly after birth.

Her Commander was ordering to continue doing labor, against medical orders. She was still ordered to perform PT, police calls, etc. She was not allowed to continue on light duty.

Her doctor specifically identifies the continued labor as the cause for the death.

The circuit court in Hawaii declined to honor the suit, but stated that there was a need to question the doctrines fairness:

“The right a pregnant woman has to serve means little if her service requires she put her fetus’s health and well-being at risk,” Nelson wrote. “In refusing to recognize Ritchie’s tort claims, we are continuing the legal fiction that these alleged wrongs are part of the military’s discipline structure.”
-Circuit Judge Dorothy Nelson

This scenario is on the extreme side of things, but the fact remains, the Military is not held accountable to the patients or dependents for its military doctors.

The point of the Feres act is to protect commanders from liability on the battlefield making decisions that end up in injury or death. It is meant to be a way to preserve discipline.

This is a law that clearly contributes to the problems within the military health care system. Doctors have zero fear of being held accountable, and the results are that care standards are declining.

Do you feel Congress should overturn the law and have it rewritten?
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Responses: 2
SFC Mark Merino
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My walking warrant buddy went in for a simple 2 vertebra fusion and it was so badly blotched tat he ended up with a 6 vertebra total fusion and was forced out of the military with 18 years service. The hardware from said fusion has had t be replaced by civilians now since it was installed incorrectly. He is in constant pain
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CPT Battery Commander
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I'm sorry to hear about your buddy. These types of reasons are why I'm asking if people want to have the law rewritten. I think as long as combat related injuries are protected from lawsuit, then ok. But if a dr makes the mistake, then you should be able to sue.
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LTC Feres Doctrine
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Every Feres post which I see makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The situation is much worse than what reaches the newspapers. Take Army lawyer Major Matthew Fitzgerald. I personally lost over $40,000 when (then) CPT Fitzgerald threatened me to do something totally against US Army regulations which he was aware. This was solely for his own self-serving and career enhancing reasons as flaunted on his annual evaluation. First I reported this to his Army lawyer superiors. One of his admittedly personal friends did the faux “investigation” and found no wrongdoing. Then I reported him to his licensing state bar and he flagrantly lied about what happened when questioned in writing. His licensing state bar said anyone else would have been disbarred for what he did (given the voluminous evidence provided against him) but their hands were tied as “the US Army lawyers as a federal agency were protecting him.” I tried to take Fitzgerald to court but could not even literally get my foot in the door because of Feres. The district court judge did not even read my case – one of his clerks did a cut-and-paste and it was all dismissed. Things need to change. Go to Facebook under “Feres Doctrine” and see the timeline.
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