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The men and women of the United States Armed Forces serve under some of the most hostile and dangerous conditions imaginable. On the battlefield, some of the most advanced equipment in the world is used to try to protect our troops from harm. Away from the front lines, however, our brave soldiers, seamen, and airmen (and women) are refused even the most basic legal protections.

The plight of the family of Carmelo Rodriguez is emblematic of this problem. Rodriguez, a Marine sargent, was a victim of medical malpractice when his doctors failed to inform him that he had melanoma and did not treat him for the condition. Tragically, Rodriguez died as a result of this negligence.

In Feres v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that servicemembers cannot sue the federal government for personal injuries resulting from the negligence of other members of the armed forces. A new bill introduced in the House of Representatives might change that. Known as the Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act, HR 1478 would permit military personnel to pursue causes of action based on medical negligence. The bill was introduced by Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and is currently before the Judiciary Committee. That Committee is chaired by Congressman John Conyers of Michigan.

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