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Birth injury case challenges Feres doctrine

Imagine losing a loved one to medical malpractice and being told that you can't take any action to hold the medical staff accountable. That is the reality that many military families are facing because of the Feres doctrine. This doctrine states that military members can't sue the federal government. One lieutenant commander in the Coast Guard is bucking that system and has filed a lawsuit to try to hold Naval Hospital Bremerton liable for his wife's death.

The man's wife died during childBirth because of a postpartum hemorrhage. She was a lieutenant who worked in the labor and delivery department at the hospital where she took her final breaths. Her co-workers were the nurses who tried to stop the flow of blood. Unfortunately, the doctor on call failed to employ a balloon device to stop the flow too late.

Reportedly, when the obstetrician was finally called to take over for the family practitioner who had been on the case, that obstetrician waited almost 90 minutes past the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' recommendation for ordering a blood transfusion. When the blood transfusion was given, the woman's body was shutting down and her heart rate was erratic. CPR was performed to no avail.

It is hoped that this case will get the Supreme Court to revisit the Feres doctrine, which is meant to stop service members from suing the government over duty-related issues. Birth injuries aren't duty related and shouldn't be covered under the doctrine, notes a man who teaches legal ethics and business law.

While this man's case is strong, the Feres doctrine might be what stands in his way of a successful claim. Finding out if that is the case is only possible by taking the necessary steps to seek compensation and try to push the case as far as possible.

Source: Kitsap Sun, "Husband of Navy nurse sues over her death," Patricia Kime, July 11, 2016

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