The Finnell Firm

For well over 50 years, the law of the land has been that military members who get treatment at the hands of military doctors or at military hospitals cannot turn around and sue their caregivers for medical malpractice.

However, a bipartisan measure aims to change this precedent, a precedent which is based on rulings of the federal courts, including an old decision of the United States Supreme Court.

For those who support the bill, the measure is simply a matter of fairness. After all, troops especially deserve proper medical care. When they do not get it, they may incur the same expenses and losses as those in the civilian world.

For instance, the man who recently brought this issue to the attention of Congress suffered when Army doctors did not tell him that they noticed what turned out to be cancer in his lungs. The doctors also did not initiate a proper course of treatment, even though they noticed the growth on two separate occasions.

On the other hand, those who opposed the measure point to costs, as medical malpractice claims could add $135 million to the government's annual liabilities. Also, servicemembers in theory already have established ways of getting benefits.

Since Georgia is the home to many members of the military, many residents will want to pay careful attention to this measure as it makes its way through Congress. In any event, though, it is important to remember that the current rule is narrow in scope in that only prevents soldiers from suing the military itself.

Those who may go to civilian doctors and hospitals under a military healthcare plan can and should consider their options if they are victims of medical malpractice.

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