Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Federal bill would allow GIs to sue for medical negligence

Federal bill would allow GIs to sue for medical negligence
Malpractice claim » A Utah colonel says the military botched her operation.
By Dawn House

The Salt Lake Tribune

Updated: 06/23/2009 10:10:11 PM MDT

A colonel who underwent surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to remove a cancerous breast says her physician operated on the wrong side of her body, mistakenly removing several healthy lymph nodes and disfiguring her.

But the government rejected all claims brought by Col. Adele Connell of Stansbury Park under a law that makes it nearly impossible for GIs and their families to sue the military for medical malpractice.

Connell hopes a bill the House Judiciary Committee expects to consider today will allow military families like hers to hold the government accountable for noncombat-related injuries. The Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act would overturn the so-called Feres Doctrine, named for a 1950 Supreme Court case that effectively bars service members from collecting damages for death or injuries caused by negligence.

"These last eight months have been unbelievably difficult," said Connell, 57, who has served in the military for more than 30 years. "The reason I am going public is that I want to try to improve the military for soldiers serving all over the world."

Connell's attorney, Dean Swartz of Washington, D.C., said it's outrageous that imprisoned felons can sue for damages from medical malpractice, but that same right is denied members of the U.S. military.

"This is a no-brainer," he said. "When doctors operate on the wrong side of a patient and cause harm, there should be some compensation."
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