Pentagon Says Harm Rate Unknown in Military Hospitals

Steve Cid | July 7th, 2014

Military Hospital MalpracticeSecrecy, malpractice, denial of responsibility, lack of supervision and oversight, not prioritizing patient safety—these are some of the alarming findings in a June 28 New York Times investigative report on malpractice in US military hospitals, a sprawling medical network that cares for the 1.6 million active-duty service members and their families.

Military hospital malpractice most evident in maternity care and surgery

The report found that the military system has consistently had higher than expected rates of harm and complications in two central parts of its business — maternity care and surgery.

More than 50,000 babies are born at military hospitals each year, and they are twice as likely to be injured during delivery as newborns nationwide, the most recent statistics show. And their mothers were more likely to hemorrhage after childbirth than mothers at civilian hospitals, according to a 2012 analysis conducted for the Pentagon.

In surgery, half of the system’s 16 largest hospitals had higher than expected rates of complications over a recent 12-month period, the American College of Surgeons found last year.

An ongoing effort to hide and deny

In 2007, in response to a lack of reporting of events where patients may have been victims of military hospital malpractice, the military started rewriting regulations for handling events that harmed or endangered patients. The effort only concluded last October. Several former Pentagon officials said embarrassing statistics were often filtered out, glossed over or buried amid larger data sets before they reached senior health leaders.

Not until October, for instance, were the Army, Navy and Air Force even required to identify the facilities where patients were severely harmed or died. Two measures used in major civilian hospitals to monitor quality of care — rates of death and readmission—were, and are, simply not tracked.

“The patient-safety system is broken,” Dr. Mary Lopez, a former staff officer for health policy and services under the Army surgeon general, said in an interview. In an internal report in 2011, the Pentagon’s patient-safety analysts offered this succinct conclusion about military health care: “Harm rate — unknown.”

New York medical malpractice attorneys

A generally reliable indicator of hospital malpractice is the number of  lawsuits and the total amount of settlements paid. From 2006 to 2010, the government paid an annual average of more than $100 million in military malpractice claims from surgical, maternity and neonatal care, records show. This statistic is deceiving, however. Active-duty service members are required to use military hospitals and clinics, but unlike the other patients, they may not sue. If they could, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2010, the military’s paid claims would triple.

If you or a loved one has suffered injury, disability, or death due to the negligence of military or civilian doctors or hospitals, the New York medical malpractice attorneys at the Sanders Firm have the resources and experience to take your claim to trial. A panel of medical professionals will investigate the details of your case and determine whether reasonable standards of care were violated and/or ignored, leading to unnecessary and often avoidable injuries. Our attorneys will do everything to make sure you are compensated for your pain and suffering, loss of income, past and future medical expenses, and all the expenses that go along with a medical malpractice claim. To schedule a free case evaluation, please call toll-free: 1.800 FAIR PLAY (800.324.7752)


  1. The Atlantic, Quietly, The US Moves to Block Lawsuits by Military Families http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/01/quietly-us-moves-to-block-lawsuits-by-military-families/252171/

  2. American College of Emergency Physicians, Understanding Medical Liability in Military Medicine http://www.acep.org/Clinical---Practice-Management/Understanding-Medical-Liability-in-Military-Medicine/

  3. New York Times, In Military Care, a Pattern of Errors But Not Scrutinyhttp://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/29/us/in-military-care-a-pattern-of-errors-but-not-scrutiny.html