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New law addresses military medical malpractice claims

We may think that anyone in our nation who has been negligently harmed by a medical professional has the right to pursue a legal claim. However, up until recently that hasn’t always been the case for service members in Indiana and across the U.S.

In what has been dubbed by some a “Christmas miracle,” the National Defense Authorization Act has been signed into law.

The act is notable because it includes provisions allowing for $400 million to be used to pay military medical malpractice claims, even if the acts of malpractice were not committed in relation to war or training activities.

This is notable, as previously military medical professionals could not be sued for acts of malpractice. Under the “Feres Doctrine,” which stemmed from a 1950 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, active-duty service members were not permitted to sue the government for acts of medical malpractice. While the Act does not permit outright lawsuits against the government, individual military medical professionals can be held accountable.

In the end, it’s important that acts of medical malpractice are addressed, whether the acts are committed by military medical professionals or civilian medical professionals. Service members put their lives on the line for our nation, but they should not be expected to lose their life due to a military medical professional’s act of malpractice. All doctors have a duty of care towards patients and if this duty of care is breached, causing harm, the doctor at issue should be held accountable. This new law ensures that such protections are afforded to service members, just as they are to others.

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