Should an active member of the United States military be able to sue the United States Government for medical malpractice? The answer according to the United States Supreme Court in Feres v. The United States, 24 U.S. 135 (1950) is no. The Feres doctrine, as it is commonly know, prohibits an active member of the military and not on furlough from suing the United States for injuries caused by another member of the military. This bar does not extend to family members of active military personnel.
A congressman from New York has introduced legislation in congress to reverse the Feres decision and make the military accountable for the medical malpractice of military doctors. The Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act of 2009 is the subject of hearings that are currently before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law. Carmelo Rodriguez was a Marine who died in 2007 after military doctors misdiagnosed a melanoma on his left buttock. Motivated by his memory, Sgt. Rodriguez’s family has spearheaded this legislation.