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Military service members face barriers in malpractice cases

Members of the military in Arizona could experience significant legal barriers when attempting to collect compensation after a medical injury. The Feres doctrine is a federal law that prevents military personnel and their families from suing the federal government for injuries resulting from activities related to military service. Although the Feres doctrine has been unsuccessfully challenged since its establishment in 1950, another family has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court after an infant girl suffered brain and nerve damage from birth injuries that happened at a hospital operated by the U.S. Army.

The mother was an active-duty U.S. Air Force captain. While being prepared for a scheduled Cesarean section, she was given a pharmaceutical identified on her medical records as a known allergen. To counteract the resulting allergic reaction, hospital staff gave the woman an antihistamine. This caused her blood pressure to drop dangerously and deprive the unborn infant of oxygen.

The girl now requires ongoing therapy, and her family expects to face medical expenses for the girl's entire life. Lower courts dismissed malpractice claims because of the Feres doctrine. Arguing that the law requires clarification and that an infant should not be considered the same as an active-duty service member, the family awaits a response from the Supreme Court. Numerous organizations, such as the National Organization for Women and the American Legion, have filed briefs proclaiming their support for the case.

Medical malpractice claims must meet numerous legal standards in order to proceed. A family whose members experienced birth injuries might decide to consult an attorney. Testimony from outside medical experts might be obtained by an attorney to help build a case. An attorney could also represent the family during negotiations with an insurance company or at a trial.

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