Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Repeal the Feres Doctrine

Cindy Wilson was a 37 year old technical sergeant stationed at Langley Air Force Base. On February 20, 2007, she was to give birth to her first child. Sergeant Wilson was excited that her parents were making the trip from Georgia to experience the birth of their grandson. On that same day, Dr. Michael Carozza, the lead obstetrician on staff at Langley, had not even been issued his Virginia medical license. He was 31 years of age and had just completed his residency a few months before.

Just before midnight on Feb. 20, 2007, Sergeant Wilson gave birth by cesarean section to a healthy boy. But she never got to hold her baby. According to her medical records, a uterine artery was cut during the delivery, causing massive internal bleeding. The estimated blood loss was equivalent to the total blood volume of an average adult. Then, during frantic efforts to repair the damage, two surgical sponges were left in Wilson’s abdomen. Wilson's parents went to her Smithfield home to get some sleep. Around 4 a.m., her husband called. Wilson was going back to the operating room for emergency surgery caused by the sponges left in her body. When her parents got back to the hospital, “her room looked like a tornado had hit it,” Connie Wilson said. A piece of medical equipment was overturned and a needle lay on the floor.

Twelve hours after giving birth, she was dead. Dr. Carozza's Virginia medical license was issued on Feb. 21, 2007 – the day Cindy Wilson died. Carozza is still on the obstetrics staff at Langley.

In the following months, Sergeant Wilson's devastated parents got a second shock when they learned that they had no recourse – even for what seemed to them an egregious case of medical malpractice – because of a legal precedent known as the Feres Doctrine , which bars military members from recovery for personal injury or death "incurred incident to miltary service or duty." "Incident to service" means any and all activities, not just work-related military duties, to which the service member is exposed due to her military service- including use of base recreational facilities and receipt of health care services.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

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