The U.S. government is on the brink of giving active duty military personnel half a legal loaf when it comes to a fundamental constitutional right — their chance to seek justice in the civil courts if they suffer harms while receiving medical services in noncombat situations.
If the U.S. Senate approves, as expected, a House-passed measure, and it is signed by the president, as he has said he will, active military members soon may be able to make medical malpractice claims, as they couldn’t before. But the disputes won’t be decided in the civil justice system. Instead, they will stay under military control.
That’s far less than ideal. To understand why, and how this compromise got struck, it’s necessary to dive a little into federal law.