Culture and Malpractice: Contrasting military medical centers and private hospitals in $29.5M Tripler verdict
MDLinx June 2, 2023 (excerpt): … Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, has paid out over $108 million since 1997 due to malpractice settlements and verdicts. This includes a recent case, decided this May, when a Hawaiian US District Court ruled against Tripler Army Medical Center in favor of a Honolulu-based military family who received care from the medical center in 2016. The medical care was for the family’s child, who was three months old.
John and Laura Warren, the military couple at the center of this recent case, took their young child to Tripler Army Medical Center when her stomach distended and turned blue below the navel. Their daughter stopped breathing after arriving at the medical center and was resuscitated. Medical staff attending the infant suspected she might have midgut volvulus, but tests for the condition were not run. The Warren’s lawyer alleged that it took 19 hours for action to be taken. By this point, the Warren’s daughter was near death and was transferred to Kapiolani Medical Center.
At Kapiolani Medical Center, it was found that 90 to 95% of her small intestine was necrotic. The infant required 14 surgeries and was in the hospital for five months. Today, she takes in most of her nutrition through jejunostomy tubing. Infections to her jejunostomy sites have caused heart and brain damage. After reviewing the case, Hawaii’s US District Court awarded the Warren family $29.5 million. …
Military Medical Centers and Malpractice
Malpractice suits against military medical centers can look very different. There are several reasons for this. A primary reason is that military medical centers are federal government facilities. When you work for a federal government healthcare facility, you cannot be individually sued for malpractice. The suit is always against the federal government, and the federal government always pays out the claim. You don’t need your own malpractice insurance in these facilities.
The other major reason suits against military medical centers are often very different from suits against private hospitals is that regulations prevent many suits from ever going to court. Active duty military members cannot bring suits for their own care and have them tried in court. Instead, they are required to file a claim with the Department of Defense (DoD). The DoD will investigate the claim and all evidence provided by the claimant. The burden of proof is with the claimant. The DoD pays approved claims under $100,000 and the Department of the Treasury pays approved claims over $100,000.
This means that not only are providers at military medical centers not individually sued and liable for malpractice, but they also will not have to appear in court if the malpractice claim involves an active-duty military member. Of course, something that results in an approved malpractice claim could lead to other professional repercussions, but this change in how the actual malpractice case is handled is significant….
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