First, it was reported late last week that one of two “pro se” cases just accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court this term concerns whether the “sovereign immunity” given doctors who commit negligence at military hospitals (because, of course, doctors at such hospitals are deities incapable of committing “legal wrongs”) should apply when the doctor also commits a battery (unlawful touching) on a patient.
Steven Alan Levin underwent surgery to remove a cataract in his right eye and have it replaced with an artificial lens at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Guam in March 2003.
Levin later said when the operation was performed, he had withdrawn his consent to treatment, but doctor's proceeded anyway. During the surgery, complications developed, and those complications -- and their remedies -- led to further pain and suffering and a multitude of follow up treatments.
In 2004 Levin had to undergo a corneal transplant to relieve the condition. He sued the doctor and the U.S. government for negligence and battery shortly thereafter.
The federal appeals court (9th Circuit) found that sovereign immunity applied even with regard to the battery claim. But in the another case, the 10th Circuit found differently. So now the U.S. Supremes get their hands on it.
Meanwhile, veterans receiving negligent medical care at VA hospitals have another kind rigmarole to go through, as illustrated by this case filed in federal court yesterday. According to the Associated Press,
Michael D. Nash of Louisville [KY] filed suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Louisville for what he calls medical malpractice.
Nash, who served in the Army in 1968 and 1969, went to the VA hospital in Lexington for medically necessary surgery on his penis. Nash’s attorney, Larry Jones of Jones Ward law firm in Louisville, said that after the procedure a nurse packed Nash’s groin in ice for 19 hours.
“It basically caused frostbite on his penis, which eventually caused gangrene,” Jones said. “In addition to robbing someone of their manhood, they’ve robbed him of the simple ability to urinate just like every other person who lives in this world.”
At first, Nash was prevented from suing, required to try to obtain compensation from the VA through the Federal Tort Claims Act. However, the VA rejected his claim in July, finding “no negligence.” When the VA rejects a claim like this, the patient can then sue in federal court.
Jones said the extent of Nash’s injuries are what prompted the lawsuit.
“If this was someone who had a little frostbite and a little burning for a couple of days, there would be no suit,” Jones said. “I would not wish this on my worst enemy.”