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Maryland Mother Seeks Medical Malpractice Claim Against U.S. Navy


A Maryland mother would like to pursue a medical malpractice claim against the U.S. Navy after the death of her son, according to an article by WFMD. But long-standing legal precedence prevents members of the armed forces from pursuing medical malpractice claims related to military service.

Back in December of 2017, the son was a corpsman with the U.S. Navy, serving as a pharmacist in a military hospital. At that time, the corpsman was scheduled for a routine shoulder surgery.

After undergoing the surgical procedure, the corpsman complained of agonizing pain. In response, medical staff increased the corpsman’s prescription for oxycodone, provided a muscle relaxer, and applied a morphine drip. Less than three days later, roommates found the corpsman dead in their apartment.

The corpsman’s mother felt that medical staff caused the death by overprescribing opioids. An autopsy revealed that the corpsman took the proper amount of medication prescribed by medical professionals. So the corpsman did not over-consume his medication.

Despite these realities, the corpsman’s mother was not able to pursue a medical malpractice claim against the U.S. Navy due to the Feres Doctrine.

What is the Feres Doctrine?

The Feres Doctrine traces back to a 1950 case in U.S. Supreme Court. In this case, a service member’s family attempted to sue the U.S. government for wrongful death. The service member in question died as a result of a fire on a military barracks, apparently due to defective equipment and improper procedures.

Extending the concept of sovereign immunity, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the government was not liable for wrongful death. More specifically, the court determined that the U.S. military branches were not liable for medical malpractice claims concerning injuries sustained in the course of active duty.

Essentially, the Feres Doctrine prevents military service members from collecting damages for injures sustained while performing their official duties. The Feres Doctrine also extends to the families of service members, preventing them from filing medical malpractice, wrongful death, or similar claims. Though the Feres Doctrine does not apply to injuries sustained outside of active or official duty.

In May of 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a new case that could have challenged the Feres Doctrine. Instead, the U.S. Supreme Court deferred to Congress, stating that the legislature should address this issue. At present, there is bipartisan legislation in Congress that would adjust the Feres Doctrine. But until the proposed bill passes both houses, the Feres Doctrine will remain in place for now.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If need legal help with medical malpractice in Maryland, it can be decidedly valuable to speak with a well-established personal injury attorney. The Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys at Iamele & Iamele, LLP have vast legal experience in matters of medical malpractice and other aspects of personal injury law. If you need legal help, contact us today for a free initial consultation.



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