Military Families Face Lack of Transparency in Determining Medical Errors

In an above-the-fold NY Times article published today, the plight of military families seeking explanations for medical errors in the treatement of loved ones was highlighted. While all those who’ve been a victim of a medical error face a difficult time confronting a byzantine healthcare system that lacks transparency, the problem is particularly difficult for military families seeking treatment at VA facilities.

The NY Times article noted, “Tens of thousands of serious medical mistakes happen every year at American hospitals and clinics. While a handful of health care organizations have opted for broad disclosure amid calls for greater openness, most patients and their families still face significant obstacles if they try to find out what went wrong. But as Mr. Moore’s case illustrates, the nation’s 1.3 million active-duty service members are in a special bind, virtually powerless to hold accountable the health care system that treats them.They are captives of the military medical system, unable, without specific approval, to get care elsewhere if they fear theirs is substandard or dangerous. Yet if they are harmed or die, they or their survivors have no legal right to challenge their care, and seek answers, by filing malpractice suits.”

Service members, who should be given the best medical care, are often the victims of arcane laws, rules, and regulations that make them helpless to a bureaucracy intent on protecting itself.
“There is just no transparency. You can’t sue. You have no insight into the process,” said Cheryl Garner, a military intelligence officer who retired last year. “As active duty, we just don’t have much recourse.”

This is an egregious problem that demands reform. Hopefully, the NY Times investigation will spur citizens and lawmakers to demand change and reform.