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Limited Malpractice Recovery For Officer Who Died In Military Hospital

On March 8, 2013, Rebekah Moani Daniel went to the hospital with her husband to give birth to the couple’s child. The 33-year-old Navy lieutenant was a labor and delivery nurse at the same Naval Hospital Bremerton where she planned to give birth. The following day, Daniel gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Victoria. However, shortly after delivery, something went wrong.

Daniel continued bleeding after the labor. Hospital staff began administering medication to stop the profuse bleeding, but the drugs did not work. The hospital gave her more medications, which also failed to work. A device to stop the bleeding was reportedly used too late, by which point Daniel had lost almost 1/3rd of her body’s blood. Another doctor reportedly ordered a blood transfusion too late, over an hour after the amount of time recommended by medical professionals. Daniel died of blood loss.

According to her husband, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Walter Daniel, his wife’s death should not have occurred. If the Daniels’ were any other couple in the United States, Walter Daniel may have a good medical malpractice case against the hospital. However, because Rebekah Daniel was an active-duty military officer, her husband may be barred from filing a wrongful death claim against the doctors or hospital.

The Feres Doctrine prevents individuals from suing the government when someone is injured related to military service. The name comes from the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Feres v. United States, where military servicemen were prevented from suing the government after they were injured by radioactive weapons fragments.

Two other cases were considered along with the Feres case, both medical malpractice cases. In the Jefferson case, a military member underwent abdominal surgery. He later went in for another surgery. However, doctors found a 30-inch-long towel inside the patient, marked “Medical Department U.S. Army” had been left inside the patient’s body for almost 8 months.

Many critics argue that the policy is too broadly applied, including preventing legal actions for military members who are injured related to medical malpractice. Walter Daniel and their daughter Victoria may be barred from filing a medical malpractice or wrongful death claim against the naval hospital for Rebekah Daniel’s death by the Feres Doctrine. However, Walter Daniel’s hopes the Supreme Court will finally take his case to reconsider the Feres Doctrine.

According to critics, protecting the U.S. government from malpractice claims does nothing to hold negligent military hospitals responsible for their deadly mistakes. Allowing for medical malpractice cases to go forward could motivate hospitals to become a safer place for patients and their families.

If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of medical malpractice, the Gilman & Bedigian team of experienced attorneys here to help. We are fully equipped to handle the complex process of bringing a medical malpractice claim. Our staff, including a physician and attorneys with decades of malpractice litigation experience, will focus on getting you compensation, so you can focus on healing and moving forward with your life.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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