In 2013, the United States Naval Hospital on Guam received the judgment of litigation in the famously known case called Levin v. the U.S., 568 U.S. 2013; 11-1351 (2013) (Rosenfeld, 2016). The case was decided in the Roberts Court, and the decision was announced by judge Ginsburg, J. on behalf of the rest of the course judges. Steven A. Levin petitioned the case in 2012, and the advocates assigned to the case were James A. Feldman and Pratik A. Shah (Rosenfeld, 2016). Our institution – the United States Naval Hospital on Guam, was substituted by the United States, which became the official response for Levin v. United States (2013).
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The Levin v. the United States (2013) concerns personal injury and medical battery complaints filed by the petitioner. He was set to undergo cataract surgery, but moments before the operation, he unsuccessfully tried to withdraw a written consent he signed. The surgery led to long-term injuries on the petitioner, which have no sign of success. After this operation, the petitioner filed a case against the surgeon for medical malpractice and battery.
This case primarily concerned whether Medical Malpractice Immunity Act (Gonzales Act) nullifies the sovereign immunity that is described in the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) in the context of medical lawsuits. In the district court, judges had ruled that the surgeon was immunized from the malpractice claims due to a lack of accounts of a material fact (Dineen, 2013). Notably, the FTCA does allow tort claims, but it does not define conditions where injuries occur due to intentional tort. However, the Medical Malpractice Immunity Act (Gonzalez Act) corrected this exception, through which FTCA had immunized “arising out of a negligent or wrongful act or omission in the performance of medical, dental, or related health care functions” (Legal Information Institute, n.d. para.5). This became the root of the main argument in the case, upon which the supreme course decided that the Gonzalez Act 28 U.S.C. §1089 nullified the FTCA immunity for military doctors who are sued because of medical battery. Hence, the supreme court allowed the petitioner to proceed with his suit.
This means that Lieutenant Commander Frank Bishop, M.D., the United States Navy surgeon in Guam, is not protected by the law against medical battery claims by the petitioner. Also, the court decision indicates that this facility falls short of compliance with professional medical ethics. The doctor did not follow respect for autonomy, an ethical principle that grants competent adults the free dome to decide their medical care (Varkey, 2020). In that perspective, his conduct was unethical and is plausible to judge in a court of law.
That does not make the doctor guilty, as the case will proceed, but the supreme court ruling will significantly affect the reputation of the United States Naval Hospital in Guam. Studies have found that health facilities that have malpractice cases receive fewer patients than their counterparts due to loss of trust (Smith, 2017). Besides, the hospital will incur costs dealing with the litigation since Lieutenant Commander Frank Bishop was acting on behalf of the hospital.
In light of the ruling made on Levin v. the United States (2013), the United States Naval Hospital on Guam should prioritize the education of its healthcare professionals regarding the updated laws on medical practice. The hospital should also revise its policies and align them more strictly to professional, ethical codes of practice in various healthcare fields. Lastly, the hospital should conduct necessary patient education regarding their rights and the laws protecting them from harm.
Dineen, D. (2013). Willamette Law Online – United States Supreme Court Updates – Levin v. United States | Willamette University College of Law. Willamette.edu. Retrieved 11 February 2022, from https://willamette.edu/law/resources/journals/wlo/scotus/2013/03/levin-v-united-states-2.html.