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Law prevents service member from filing medical negligence claim

Texas is home to many military bases, which mean that many service members are treated at military medical centers. However, sometimes, the treatment at these medical centers is lacking and in the worst of cases, leads to a failure to diagnose, a misdiagnosis or other act of medical negligence.

One serviceman from another state has contracted cancer, but due federal law, is facing a legal battle that is blocking him from filing a claim for medical malpractice. The serviceman was initially seen by physicians twice at Fort Bragg's Womack Army Medical Center. He felt like something was not right, so he was permitted to be examined by a civilian physician six months later. This physician found that the man had tumor in his lung, which the Army doctors had noticed at both of his appointments, but they did not treat the man in any way for the growth. The man now has Stage 4 lung cancer -- a diagnosis that is expected to be terminal.

Per the "Freres Doctrine," based on a 1950 Supreme Court ruling in Feres v. United States, service members who are under active duty are prohibited from filing a medical malpractice or medical negligence claim. But, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that addresses this issue by including a narrow exception to that ruling. The bill is now headed to the Senate for approval.

It is unfortunate that this man is now facing a terminal illness due to a legal roadblock. Civilians are generally able to sue for medical malpractice when physicians negligently fail to diagnose or treat a condition that causes the patient to suffer damages. Physicians have a duty of care to exercise the same level of competency that other physicians in similar situations would, and if their conduct deviates from this standard of care, which causes the patient to suffer further injury, that physician may be considered at-fault.

When there is a failure to diagnose, it could mean that a condition that may have been initially treatable has become terminal. This is a terrible position to be in, and those who find themselves in such situations deserve justice. A medical malpractice claim may be the right course of action for some, but as this post does not provide legal advice, those who want to learn more about medical malpractice will want to seek legal guidance on the issue.

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