When the Children of Active Military Personnel Suffer Birth Injury

For decades, women have proudly served our country in the armed services, and/or have taken on the difficult role as a soldier’s spouse.  As either active members of the military, or married to a spouse in the military, these women often rely upon the armed services to provide healthcare, including the management of pregnancy, labor and delivery. Unfortunately, the referenced healthcare provided by the military, as with any medical services provided to the general public outside of the military community, may sometimes be deficient, and may cause injuries to patients.

In 2009, Captain Heather Ortiz was taken to Evans Army Community Hospital to undergo a scheduled C-section. Captain Ortiz was an active duty Air Force member at that time. During the course of her labor, her healthcare providers negligently administered a drug that caused Ortiz’s blood pressure to drop to dangerously low levels.  The drop in blood pressure in turn caused her unborn child to suffer oxygen deprivation, resulting in the child sustaining a traumatic brain injury.  The child now requires constant care and will suffer lifelong from the conditions stemming from her brain injury .

Unfortunately, Captain Ortiz received no compensation for her child’s injuries. A 1950 Supreme Court case decided that active military members couldn’t seek compensation from the government for injuries sustained by virtue of the negligent acts or omissions of fellow military service members or staff.  The rational for that case’s decision was that the Veteran’s Benefit Act covered injuries to military personnel when they occur due to negligence. However, Captain Ortiz’s child is not engaged in military service, yet sustained injuries as a result of the negligent acts of military healthcare providers.  To date, the courts have not ruled in Captain Ortiz’ favor.

Sadly, Captain Ortiz is not the first female service member to encounter this discrepancy in the law or in the inequity of the court’s decisions.

If you or a family member (military service personnel or not) has suffered injuries due to complications and/or medical negligence during labor and delivery, you may be able to pursue various claims against healthcare providers.  For more information, contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Blume Forte Fried Zerres & Molinari at (973) 635-5400.

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