For the Ortiz family, a scheduled Cesarean section delivery at a military treatment facility was supposed to go smoothly. Somehow, medication that was properly documented as an allergy was given to Air Force Capt. Heather Ortiz and it resulted in an unexpected antihistamine dose to counteract the allergy. That deprived her daughter, Isabella of oxygen when her blood pressure went down to troubling levels.
Now, 6-year-old Isabella suffers from brain and nerve damage that is directly related to her birth. Isabella will have to endure special treatment for the rest of her life and her parents have valid concerns with all the financial responsibilities that will and have been coming their way. That’s why Isabella’s father filed a lawsuit against the Army hospital.
Unfortunately for the Ortiz family, there is a doctrine in place that keeps service members from suing the government for medical malpractice.
prevents people who are injured as a result of military service from successfully suing the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
It was enacted in 1950 and since then the Feres doctrine has stopped countless military medical malpractice cases in its tracks.
The Ortiz family and supporters recently pushed their medical malpractice case to the Supreme Court. An Air Force Times article reported that the original petition was filed on October 13 and it currently has a 30-day extension from the initial December 18 deadline to respond.
Military medical malpractice has a long history since the Feres doctrine was formed and was actually the reason it was enacted in the first place. In recent years, the unfairness of the doctrine is becoming more evident. A similar case in 2011 was never heard by the Supreme Court after months of waiting. After what was supposed to be a routine appendectomy, left Staff Sgt. Dean Witt in a vegetative state. Medical malpractice was the culprit because the hospital utilized improper gear and gave him harsh treatment, according to his legal petition.
In my opinion, it doesn’t even make sense, especially for the Ortiz and Witt medical malpractice cases. That’s the tip of the iceberg because there are so many other medical malpractice cases out there that would benefit from reform.
The Ortiz family argues that the use of the Feres doctrine to military children is unfair because they have never worn a uniform. Their daughter wasn’t injured as a result of being in the military. Isabella is a military child, not a service member.
The medical malpractice problem for military families isn’t black and white.
In fact, I think the process is so convoluted, I welcome you to read further about the messiness from a piece in the Atlantic.
All in all, I believe a change is needed to protect our military families. If the Supreme Court hears the Ortiz medical malpractice case, it would be followed by many more cases.
What should we do? We could encourage Congress to step in.
Luckily, there are lots of advocates out there lobbying to reform or amend the doctrine like the American Legion, the National Organization for Women and a handful of members of Congress. With that said, we could all contact our congress members to show our support for military families that have endured medical malpractice.